Righteous Indignation, Thy Name is “Knitter” – Ravelympics Under Fire By USOC

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The U.S. Olympic Committee just did something pretty ridiculous and comical, and it’s got a lot of fiber crafters royally pissed off.

This year is the third  Ravelympics, an event put on by Ravelry.com during the Olympic Games. The idea is to challenge yourself to start and finish projects during the games, while rooting on your favorite athletes. Participants pick “events” to enter, such as a “sweater triathlon” and many also join teams, such as “Team Tardis.” The 2012 Ravelympics runs from July 27 to August 12.

It’s all in good fun, right? We get to work on fiber crafts and cheer for our favorite Olympic athletes?

Not so, says the United States Olympic Committee.

Ravelry recently received this notice from the General Counsel of the United States Olympic Committee.  In essence, it says:

  • There’s a law prohibiting unauthorized use of the Olympic symbol (the five rings) or the word “Olympic” and any derivation of it for any commercial purpose or for any competition.
  • Ravelry’s use of  a derivation of the word “Olympic” in the name for the “Ravelympics” competition may” constitute trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of the trademark. It falsely suggests a connection to the Olympic Movement.
  • The use of the derivation “Ravelymics” for a friendly crafting competition “tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games” and is “disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

I could try to take this point by point and argue it to death., but that’s no fun. We all know the USOC are stomping around in their big old brand-protection boots and squashing things they don’t need to squash.  What I think is more fun is watching the amusing commentary roll in on Twitter. If crafters can make a big issue of this, the USOC may find that “I’m a big-old-brand-ogre” actions of this sort hurt their brand more than a friendly fiber arts competition ever could.

27 thoughts on “Righteous Indignation, Thy Name is “Knitter” – Ravelympics Under Fire By USOC

  1. I should’ve guessed that the twitterati would be all over this.

    Guess if they don’t want us watching, we’ll have to occupy our time with something else. Whatever shall we DO for two and a half weeks? 😉

  2. I JUST found the thread on Rav. OMG Seriously? Insane! Stuffy lawyers denigrate the efforts of our country’s finest athletes! Time to come up with a good “stuff it” name for the event formerly known as Ravelymipcs…. Hmm… How about “Pointy Stick Wielding People United in Support of Athletes Participating In An Event We Cannot Name Who Are Sadly Represented By Blowhards Who Have Forgotten The Spirit of International Harmony In Which Said Event Was Founded”? Not catchy enough?

  3. You know, I’m actually ashamed of the USOC. First I was angry. Then I was REALLY angry. Now? I’m just kind of sad. They really are doing more damage to the spirit and image of the Olympics than any fiber event could. The saddest part? They don’t see it. At. All.

  4. I’ve just checked in with Twitter to see if Ravelympics made it into the Trends list… they shouldn’t have said that ‘denigrating’ thing. That really p*ssed everyone off. No, they didn’t do a favour to the Olympic spirit (in whichever dark corner it’s languishing at this moment).

  5. If you want a good example of what it means to be petty and self-important, just read the letter from the USOC. This part really cracked me up: *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.*

    Really, USOC? REALLY?!?!?!?!?!

  6. I mostly get the desire to protect the rights to the Olympics name. What really makes me angry, though, is 1. the idea that knitters are “denigrating” the Olympic name, and 2. that USOC thinks it’s okay to complain about it while simultaneously denigrating knitters. Hypocrisy, thy name is USOC.

    • caityrosey

      I know what you mean. I feel like I have some qualms with whether or not they ought to have trademark rights over the word “Olympic.” The word “Olympic” seems, to me, to be on the same level as words like “Marathon” : words with a lot of history behind them and a long tradition of common usage that transcends use of the word to refer to a specific sporting event. But the fact remains that they do have a trademark and have the right to enforce it. I just don’t like it. That’s a separate issue, really.

      I would like to see some more discussion on this, and perhaps commentary form the USOC about their criteria for enforcement of this trademark. As others have pointed out, they don’t do so consistently and I would like to know how they make the decision when to do so. When does a usage fall into the “denigration” category? People have brought up numerous other examples of use of derivations of the word Olympic that seem similar to Ravelry’s use, such as Laugh-olympics, Science Olympiad, etc…

      The denigration comment is what really sticks in my craw and I’m sure that’s what others are most angry about too. That part was unnecessary and I feel that we are owed an apology.

      • Mitchell Willie

        The way I understand it, trademark refers only to specific instances and to keep brand identity clear among direct competitors. For example, Wiffle Ball, Inc has trademarked the color yellow, but that doesn’t extend to ALL yellow–just other plastic child’s sporting toys.

        If that understanding is correct, then this seems to be slightly easier to determine. I’m not sure about whether the Ravelympics is an *actual* competition, or if it’s just packaged as one to push everyone to do their best, but that might make a difference in the long run.

        Then again, copyright and trademark law in the US has gotten so ridiculous that you might be sued if five of your embroidery hoops fall on the floor in a similar pattern.

  7. The writer of that notice clearly has never met a knitter. 😉 I have been training gor years, investing my time, money, sweat, and tears in my “sport”. Those athletic types should be flattered that we would even notice them. Ha! 🙂

  8. JustMe

    Apparently, the USOC is too limber from all their exercising, as they seem to have their heads up their butts… Snobs.

    • caityrosey

      Feel free to just start posting. It would be a good idea to include “SYTYCD Yarn Along” in the Title and tags.

  9. Wow … whoever thought Ravelry folks could be seen as so, well, seditious?! Perhaps the USOC, in order to show honor to the REAL Olympics, should decide competing in the buff would be more in the true spirit of things. And is it not a little odd that the USOC is this aggressive with a group that is probably mostly comprised of women? Would it be as aggressive if the group was something more “male” focused – say, chain saw sculpting? 🙂

  10. Knitting and other fiber sports are my choice. Why should you attack my type of sport as it is not up to what you expect. I am unable to do a lot of things others can do. Don’t you dare say what I do isn’t a serious sport. Shame on you it is about time you found something worth while to do with your time.

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