The US O*y*p*c Commission are a bunch of big fat doody heads

06/20/2012 at 1:35 pm 23 comments

Ravelry, the beloved knitting/crochet website received a letter from the US Commission on a certain summer/winter sporting event that takes place every 2 years.

At the same time aforementioned sporting event, Ravelry hosts an event titled the “Ravelympics”.  Actually, if you want to get technical, Ravelry users sponsor the event, and the Ravelry staff helps promote it like they promote many other member efforts.  The Ravelympics includes events such as “Sweaterboarding,” “Hat halfpipe, ” and “Bag Jump.”  I had a great time participating in 2010.  I made 3 hats, a bag, and a sweater while the games were going on…which is a lot quicker than I would usually do that.

The letter (Which was posted on Ravelry here for those with accounts, and partially tweeted here) goes like this (emphasis mine):

Dear Mr. Forbes,

In March 14, 2011, my colleague, Carol Gross, corresponded with your attorney, Craig Selmach [sic], in regard to a pin listed as the “2010 Ravelympic Badge of Glory.”  At that time, she explained that the use of RAVELYMPIC infringed upon the USOC’s intellectual property rights, and you kindly removed the pin from the website.  I was hoping to close our file on this matter, but upon further review of your website, I found more infringing content.

By way of review, the USOC is a non-profit corporation chartered by Congress to coordinate, promote and govern all international amateur athletic activities in the United States.  The USOC therefore is responsible for training, entering and underwriting U.S. Teams in the Olympic Games.  Unlike the National Olympic Committees of many other countries, the USOC does not rely on federal funding to support all of its efforts.  Therefore, in order to fulfill our responsibilities without the need for federal funding, Congress granted the USOC the exclusive right to use and control the commercial use of the word OLYMPIC a and any simulation or combination thereof in the United States, as well as the OLYMPIC SYMBOL.  See the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. §220501 et seq. (the “Act”).  (A copy of the relevant portion of the Act is enclosed for your convenience.)  The Act prohibits the unauthorized use of the Olympic Symbol or the mark OLYMPIC and derivations thereof for any commercial purpose or for any competition, such as the one organized through your website.  See 36 U.S.C. §220506(c).  The USOC primarily relies on legitimate sponsorship fees and licensing revenues to support U.S. Olympic athletes and finance this country’s participation in the Olympic Games.  Other companies, like Nike and Ralph Lauren, have paid substantial sums for the right to use Olympic-related marks, and through their sponsorships support the U.S. Olympic Team.  Therefore, it is important that we restrict the use of Olympic marks and protect the rights of companies who financially support Team USA.

In addition to the protections of the Act discussed above, the USOC also owns numerous trademark registration that include the mark OLYMPIC. These marks therefore are protected under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051 et seq. Thus,’s unauthorized use of the mark OLYMPIC or derivations thereof, such as RAVELYMPICS, may constitute trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of our famous trademarks.

The USOC would like to settle this matter on an amicable basis. However, we must request the following actions be taken.

1.  Changing the name of the event, the “Ravelympics.”;  The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them.  For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career.  Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes.  The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States.  Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect.  We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

It looks as if this is the third time that the Ravelympics have been organized, each coinciding with an Olympic year (2008, 2010, and 2012).  The name Ravelympics is clearly derived from the terms “Ravelry” (the name of your website) and OLYMPICS, making RAVELYMPICS a simulation of the mark OLYMPIC tending to falsely suggest a connection to the Olympic Movement.  Thus, the use of RAVELYMPICS is prohibited by the Act.  Knowing this, we are sure that you can appreciate the need for you to re-name the event, to something like the Ravelry Games.

1.  Removal of Olympic Symbols in patterns, projects, etc.   As stated before, the USOC receives no funding from the government to support this country’s Olympic athletes.  The USOC relies upon official licensing and sponsorship fees to raise the funds necessary to fulfill its mission. Therefore, the USOC reserves use of Olympic terminology and trademarks to our official sponsors, suppliers and licensees.  The patterns and projects featuring the Olympic Symbol on’s website are not licensed and therefore unauthorized.  The USOC respectfully asks that all such patterns and projects be removed from your site.

For your convenience, we have listed some of the patterns featuring Olympic trademarks.  However, this list should be viewed as illustrative rather than exhaustive.  The USOC requests that all patterns involving Olympic trademarks be removed from the website.  We further request that  you rename various patterns that may not feature Olympic trademarks in the design but improperly use Olympic in the pattern name.…\…………………

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.  We would appreciate a written reply to this letter by no later than June 19, 2012.  If you would like to discuss this matter directly, please feel free to contact me at the number above, or you may reach my colleague, Carol Gross.

Kindest Regards,

Brett Hirsch

Law Clerk

Office of the General Counsel

United States Olympic Committee

1 Olympic Plaza

Colorado Springs, CO 80909

There are soooo many things wrong with that:

  • They are obviously concerned with money more than anything else, even though the Ravelympics doesn’t make any
  • If the games are really about “world peace and harmony”, this is a great way to disturb the peace and prevent a bunch of people coming together to celebrate an event
  • Quite a lot of people watch the games while they work on their Ravelympics projects
  • The overall tone is just insulting.
  • The games have been going on “over more than a century”…read a book, honestly.

(Note that these are all my own words and, other than being a user, I have no affiliation with Ravelry or its staff, who are being quite gracious about it.)

I do understand to a certain extent that they want to maintain some “brand integrity.”  But Ravelympics isn’t even the same word, and does not make any money.  It’s clearly a fun tie in and meant to pay tribute to the games.  This is childish and silly and, in my opinion, denigrates the true nature of the Olympic Games.

I’m glad I got to enjoy the last one. I always prefer the winter games anyway (which, incidentally, is apparently rare).


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tacocat is a palindrome Ravelers Strike Back!

23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Marisa  |  06/20/2012 at 1:44 pm

    It’s a really bad idea to piss off a bunch of hookers and needlers. This needs to go viral.

  • 2. David Romerstein (@dromerstein)  |  06/20/2012 at 2:22 pm

    “Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together …” is technically correct.. The Ancient Olympics (stopped somewhere around 400AD) didn’t bring together athletes from around the world – it was strictly an intramural event between Greek city-states. The Modern Olympics didn’t start until 1859, and didn’t have an international presence until the games of 1896.

    • 3. visuallyilliterate  |  06/20/2012 at 4:49 pm

      Yes, that is true. I wasn’t questioning the “around the world” part, just the “over more than a century” part, because obviously it’s existed much longer than that. It’s an ancient institution, not some company that was just invented recently.

  • 4. The Snail of Happiness  |  06/20/2012 at 3:53 pm

    Can’t say I’m surprised… sadly, big corporate sponsorship rules.

  • 5. Patti B  |  06/20/2012 at 4:10 pm

    Gotta love (read:hate) the lawyers. Because I’m sure that by posting I’m in the Ravelympics that someone will get confused by my ‘copyright infringement’ and try to tune their tv to the event where I frantically knit a tea cozy.

    • 6. visuallyilliterate  |  06/20/2012 at 4:50 pm

      I gotta say, I would watch someone frantically knit a tea cozy. 🙂

      • 7. Patti B  |  06/20/2012 at 6:24 pm

        Sadly, I lack the corporate sponsors to make it on air, and so only my dogs and BF will be able to witness the insanity first hand. So sorry lol

  • 8. Kit  |  06/20/2012 at 4:18 pm

    Numerous court cases have supported the idea that the owners of user forums are not legally responsible for the content posted by their users. As such, Ravelry really bares no responsibility for the patterns and projects uploaded by users (and as those projects and patterns are held in copyright by the users, not Ravelry, Ravelry does not have the power to re-name them anyway). Ravelry is only responsible for their own promotion of the “Ravelympics” idea, and they can change that term if they wish, although the IOC has been known to issue Cease & Desist letters for organizations using any similar phrasing, including “The Games,” so it might be hard to find a compromise that the IOC/USOC would accept.
    That being said, I think this whole situation is outrageous, and that the USOC and IOC tend to be very touchy, especially considering that they stole (and then trademarked) the idea for the Olympics from the Greeks and from history.
    I also find the idea that knitter’s and crocheter’s working at their very best, inspired by the Olympics, making enormous and challenging projects that test their skills while watching the Olympics to be anything but “denigrating” to the ideals of international sport. To suggest that “it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work” signals a sincere lack of understanding of the skill and artistry, often gained over a lifetime, that goes into these projects. This is certainly a case where the USOC is failing to acknowledge the hard work put in by fiber artists and pattern designers. The USOC clearly does not know what it means to “represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.”

    • 9. visuallyilliterate  |  06/20/2012 at 4:51 pm

      The USOC clearly does not know what it means to “represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.”

      Exactly! And that is my biggest problem with it.

  • 10. Suzy  |  06/20/2012 at 5:30 pm

    ” This is childish and silly and, in my opinion, denigrates the true nature of the Olympic Games.”

    This. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • 11. #charityfail: The Olympic Edition | emmajenkin  |  06/20/2012 at 10:48 pm

    […] Well, the US Olympic Committee got wind of this, and sent Ravelry a cease and desist letter. […]

  • 12. magpiecrafter  |  06/21/2012 at 9:16 am

    So…apparently we’re disrespecting our Olympic athletes by joining in on a harmless fun-spirited event planned around watching the Olympic games. I wonder who else is infringing on the USOC’s copyright? Frat houses hosting the “Beer Olympics?” There has to be a ton of similar name-uses going on all the time. Some things should just be taken in stride.

  • 13. Bad Form, USOC! | Lucymade  |  06/21/2012 at 3:03 pm

    […] The US O*y*p*c Commission… at Visually Illiterate […]

  • 14. Weekly Link Round-Up ‹ Phire Walk With Me  |  06/25/2012 at 9:53 am

    […] who are getting together to watch the Olympics and work on their knitting projects that they are denigrating the true spirit of the Olympic Games. Because the event is called the Ravelympics. I wish I were kidding.+ Indie musician Jonathan […]

  • 15. Aurora  |  07/09/2012 at 2:06 pm

    interesting and informative blog thanks a lot for all the information provided.

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  • 17. CraftyStaci  |  07/24/2012 at 1:12 pm

    I’m not a yarn artist, but I’m still offended by this: “In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.” I’d like to meet the athlete that finds this disrespectful. If anything, it celebrates and emphasizes their hard work. I believe in copyright, but this is ridiculous.

  • 19. Lookie what I made! « visuallyilliterate  |  07/31/2012 at 7:35 pm

    […] also as part of the Ravelympic Ravellenic games, spin some of the green yarn I got from GnomeAcres.  The fibers on that are much […]

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