The U.S. Olympic Committee’s demands of Washington’s Olympic Cellars Winery has made a lot of news around here lately. On Dec. 30, the Peninsula Daily News broke the story. Then came National Public radio affiliate KUOW’s take on Jan. 9, followed by an article in the Seattle Times on Jan. 11.
The crux of the story is the USOC has demanded that the winery, which has used “Olympic” in its name for 15 years, make more explicit reference to the Olympic Peninsula on its Web site and stop selling to persons who live outside western Washington if they have not visited the winery.
Olympic Cellars has agreed to change its Web site but has not agreed to restrict its sales. Its use of the Internet to market its wines outside western Washington would not seem to come as a surprise to the USOC, which reportedly gave the winery permission to register its olympiccellars.com domain name in 1999.
Olympic Cellars owner Kathy Charlton with letters from the USOC
Photo credit: Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
As STL has discussed here and here, the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act gives the USOC near monopoly rights over the use of “Olympic” in commerce. The Act excepts certain use of the word by western Washington businesses as long as such use outside western Washington is not “substantial.” The problem is the Act was passed in 1998 and does not address marketing on the Internet. And, as Washington business owners are learning, the USOC does not appear to be terribly selective in its enforcement.
The USOC for its part says it “in no way intends to be difficult or heavy-handed.”
However, Olympic Cellars owner Kathy Charlton says her company’s marketing outside western Washington is “negligible.” The boutique winery only makes about 13,000 cases per year.
The Peninsula Daily News says Olympic Cellars sought help from Congressman Norm Dicks, whose district includes part of the Olympic Peninsula, to no avail. Sen. Maria Cantwell has not heard from the winery but a spokesperson says her office would be willing to look into the issue.
If that doesn’t work, the winery says it may change its name to “Dungeness,” but it is reluctant to do so because the “Olympic” name “is our heritage.”