The Seattle Times today reports on a local author’s struggle with the U.S. Olympic Committee — all because he wrote a guidebook on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. As the Times points out, “‘Olympic’ is attached to a seemingly endless stream of goods and services around here — not to mention Mount Olympus, the Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest, and the state capitol, Olympia.”
For that reason, part-time park ranger Jason Bausher didn’t think there would be a problem when he published a guidebook to his favorite places on the Olympic Peninsula. His booklet is titled “Best of the Olympic Peninsula.”
Jason Bausher, near the Old Olympic Highway, holds his guide to which the USOC objects. Photo credit: Andrei Pungovschi/AP
The USOC nonetheless took issue with his book. It learned about Mr. Bausher and his guide when he applied to register BEST OF THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA with the Patent and Trademark Office. It then sent him letter demanding that he withdraw his application. According to Mr. Bausher, the parties’ last communication ended with the USOC suggesting it might sue him.
The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. § 220501, et seq., vests with the USOC near monopoly rights over the words “Olympic,” “Olympiad,” “Paralympic,” “Paralympiad,” and other related words, regardless of whether the use causes a likelihood of confusion. Recognizing the geographic significance of “Olympic” in western Washington, however, Section 220506(d) of the statute also provides an exception for local businesses. The word lawfully can identify a business where “it is evident from the circumstances that such use of the word ‘Olympic’ refers to the naturally occurring mountains or geographical region of the same name that were named prior to February 6, 1998,” and the business’ goods or services are marketed “in the State of Washington west of the Cascade Mountain range and operations, sales, and marketing outside of this area are not substantial.”
Since Mr. Bausher’s booklet is new, and is marketed worldwide on the Internet, it does not appear to meet this exception. However, it seems nonsensical that a book about the best places on the Olympic Peninsula can’t call itself the “Best of the Olympic Peninsula.” Whether or not the statute excepts such fair use, the USOC should be used to Washington’s geographic designations by now. In 2010, the Winter Olympics will be held a stone’s throw from here in Vancouver, B.C.