Olympics reach a new low: trademarking the Canadian national anthem and threatening lawsuits over competing uses

The International Olympic Committee has trademarked a line from the Canadian national anthem, "with glowing hearts," and is threatening to sue anyone who uses the line in Canada, as part of the Vancouver Games.

This is par for the course. The IOC is a corrupt, bullying, greedy, hypocritical organization that uses trademark laws to limit the free speech and commerce of people who have the misfortune to attend or live near the games -- for example, in Athens, they forced people to take off or cover up t-shirts that had logos for companies that hadn't paid to sponsor the Olympics; and in Washington, they attacked decades-old businesses named after nearby Mount Olympia.

The Olympics cloak themselves in the rhetoric of international cooperation and development, but everything they touch turns to garbage: totalitarian surveillance camps where corporate greed rules all. The Canadian IOC ought to be disbanded over this -- it's an affront to the entire nation.

Parliament should undo its special legislation that allowed the IOC to assert trademarks over words like "Winter" as well -- our language is not property, it is freely usable by all of us.

. VANOC would only challenge the commercial use of the mottoes if a business began using them to create a specific, unauthorized commercial association with the 2010 Winter Games, said the statement.

O Canada is over 100 years old and, according to the Department of Canadian Heritage, is in the public domain so may be used without permission from the government.

The committee is so serious about protecting the Olympic brand it managed to get a landmark piece of legislation passed in the House of Commons last year that made using certain phrases related to the Games a violation of law.

The list includes the number 2010 and the word "winter," phrases that normally couldn't be trademarked because they are so general.

Olympic mottoes borrow lines from O Canada (Thanks, Dan!)

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  1. Holy shit. What next? Greed knows no bounds, eh?

    I hereby declare: 2010 !!!

    WINTER !!!

    WITH GLOWING HEARTS !!!

    Sue me mutherfuckers.

  2. our language is not property, it is freely usable by all of us.

    Hear, hear. Harness our words, harness our thoughts. No thank you.

  3. I am Canadian. As we are in the middle of a federal election, I will be writing to my party’s candidate for MP to find out her position on this.


    Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
    (Or something like that)

  4. I for one applaud the government for banishing the use of the word “winter”. Now if they can banish “cold” and “snow” I’d be one happy “8 months of bad ice” camper!

  5. That’s Mt. Olympus, not Mt. Olympia.

    The USOC, in a truly magnanimous display of largesse, have agreed to allow their prime persecutee (Olympic Cellars Winery of Port Angeles) to retain their name for marketing purposes only on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. In other words, they can’t market their products (which are quite good) outside the immediate area without sacrificing the identity which they have worked several years to establish.

    And who do we have to thank for this? None other than Alaska Senator Ted (Tubes) Stevens, who sponsored the legislation that gave the USOC the “right” to monopolize the word “Olympic.”

  6. Personally, what I’m wondering is whether they’ll end up going after anyone who sells the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  7. The International Olympic Committee is a joke. I am greek and you can’t immagine my surprise when i found out that someone could break the law by using the word “olympic”. First i heard about this at the atlanta olympics when they sued a greek restaurant that was named olympic-something (big surprise half of the gree restaurants around the world use some derivative of olympic). Then they had this absurd pretense to cover non approved logos on your t-shirts when the circus came to Athens (they even provided official covers when entering the stadium but i took of mine and assisted in my alternative tentacles shirt and noone bothered me).

    What bothers me most is that they get away with copyrighting history. You know mount olympus and the greek mythology are around for almost 3.000 years, in greece you just can’t copyright the words they pretend they own – the friggin greek national air line is called olympic airlines LOL

    Of course it doen’t help that the committee has some dubbious characters amongst it’s members. Greece’s very own ex-king is among them. Though he is persona non grata in Greece (because he refuses to acknowledge that Greece is a democracy and insists that he wants his greek passport to state that he is a monarch and he must be refered only by his first name Konstantinos without a surname) he still manages to enter the country as a member of the IOC.

    F***k em.

  8. Another point to add to my list of questions for my local candidates.

    I am disgusted that the IOC can get away with what they have done – when the Olympics were in Calgary in ’88 I don’t recall there being laws passed about certain words.

    How ridiculous. I think this may be another Olympics that I don’t bother watching.

    1. During the 1988 Olympics, the motel on 16 Avenue here in Calgary was slapped with a cease and desist order as their name was Olympic Motor Inn. They had been in business since the early 1970’s. I believe the OC went after Olympic Paint as well. Very sad, all in the name of making sure corporate sponsors get their massive profits.

  9. So wait… if I sing the anthem or say the phrase ‘with glowing hearts’ I am perfectly okay. If I print the phrase “With Glowing Hearts” on a t-shirt with the Olympic rings and a picture of Whistler Mountain and try to sell it, I’m gonna get in trouble?

    Not seeing what the hubbub is all about.

  10. @#4 and especially to #13:

    This is a trademark issue, not one of copyright. It doesn’t make the situation any less stupid, but that is a very important distinction.

  11. @#11: My understanding is that the legislation that gave the USOC rights to remove the word “Olympic” from the English language (as spoken in the United States) specifically allowed use on the Olympic Peninsula. So there was no largess at all in that part of the settlement.

    USOC attacks on businesses and individuals here are much more extensive than just the one company. They appear to be particularly aggravated by the use on web sites (completely in keeping with Ted “tube” Steven’s understanding of it). Perhaps it’s because some can actually be viewed outside the Olympic Peninsula (*gasp*).

  12. Totally insane!
    But, on the other hand….
    Dibbs on the words (the,and)
    gotta set up my paypal account, yall can use my words for a small fee.

  13. @Travispulley -“This is a trademark issue, not one of copyright. It doesn’t make the situation any less stupid, but that is a very important distinction.”

    In this particular case, the distinction is of no importance at all. Sometimes the niceties of law and convention disappear in the face of monumental greed and stupidity.

  14. Hmmm, CTV has the Olympic Broadcast rights for 2010 and 2012… will Radio-Canada still play the anthem each morning and night? I’m already thinking about my Hiver shirt… because me skiing is not un “des plus brillants exploits” …

    Totally comfortable with skipping winter for a year though!

  15. Thanks for posting this. VANOc has done what I thought unthinkable: to surpass the IOC in sleazy grabs at any possible public resource and claiming it as their own.

  16. On Topic:
    The idea is that by doing this, they can sue people who make unofficial Olympic crap… that would almost certainly be more interesting than the official Olympic crap.

    Vaguely Related:
    “des plus brillants exploits”
    You know, every time I see this phrase, I always think of usefull bugs in assorted computer games.

  17. Ironic that the words in question should be about warmth, humanity and love.

    Forget the Catholic Church… Big Sport has agents all over the world, has land, assets and demands fealty and ideological adherence.

    IOC, FIFA etc are scary.

  18. Time for all us Bloggers to protest this greedy IOC and show them they can’t fight us! I have used “with glowing hearts” on my Blog here: http://aardvarkzone.com/holtblog/

    Cheers!
    Foster Foskin, the Aussie bloke currently demolishing Thailand in his own unique way!

  19. Damn! I can see the Olympic Mountains from here!

    (I live in Washington state not that far south of V_______r, C____a where the W____r O______s are going to be in 2__0…)

    Sorry, IOC, these mountains have been named the Olympic Mountains since 1864, and in fact the entire peninsula they are on is the Olympic Peninsula.

    Don’t like that, IOC? Tough!

  20. I have to add a couple links to articles about Olympic Cellars Winery which has actually received letters from the USOC complaining about their using the Olympic Cellars name since over five years BEFORE Senator Ted Stevens law making it unlawful to have such a business name.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2004119045_olympic11.html

    and

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/retailreport/2008079983_retailreportdige29olymipc.html

  21. Somebody should trademark the name “Ted Stevens” and then we can just call the person Senator Series of Tubes.

  22. Well, at least they were thinking of trying to avoid some of the madness involved:

    “(4) Nothing in subsection (1) or (2) prevents

    […]

    (b) the use of a trade-mark by an owner or licensee of the trade-mark if an owner or licensee of the trade-mark used it before March 2, 2007 and the use subsequent to that date is in association with

    (i) the same wares or services as those for which the trade-mark was used before that date,

    (ii) the wares or services in respect of which it is registered under the Trade-marks Act, or

    (iii) any other wares or services of the same general class as that for which it is registered or was, before that date, used;

    Although it would kinda suck if, say, you owned a Greek restaurant called “Olympus” or some such, wanted to open a Greek food store next door, and got sued for calling it the same name.

  23. From that Seattle Times story posted by Tomas:
    “Federal law allows companies to use the word “Olympic” for business done in Western Washington.

    Olympic Peninsula businesses have been getting letters from USOC lawyers for years.

    “The whole thing is so incredibly unfair and unjust, and I’m so sorry to hear Olympic Cellars is taking this,” said Ned Schumann, owner of the Internet provider OlympusNet in Port Townsend. “It’s such a joke that they [the USOC] have this power.”

    …Olympic Mountain Rescue, a volunteer search-and-rescue nonprofit in Kitsap County, was contacted in the 1970s by U.S. Olympic people who ultimately gave it authorization to use the word, said coordinator Roger Beckett….”

  24. Hmmm…so the year 2010 won’t exist in Canada because of copyright infringement fears? Then I suppose there can’t be a 2010 Olympics there…

  25. Sorry Cory, but your story is not accurate. VANOC is seeking the trademark for “with glowing hearts” but it has not yet been registered or approved.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080925.wanthem25/BNStory/National/home

    You can see it at the CIPO.

    http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/app/cipo/trademarks/search/viewTrademark.do;jsessionid=0000xFrplxEdBl6vIv4ykpovoP6:1247nfca5?language=eng&fileNumber=1410532&extension=0&startingDocumentIndexOnPage=1

    It is a broad attempt, but will very likely be scaled back given the 100 years of history of the phrase. I’m more of a patent guy, but I’m told that opposing trademarks for well known phrases is easy and often successful; this is basically a bad trademark selection by VANOC as it’s not likely to result in an enforceable property.

  26. Being in London, I don’t have many more freedoms to lose anyway. Being forced to pay financially for something I object to (subsidised idiots running and jumping for jingoistic patriotic competetive political nationalistic… I could go on) says so much about a country and the big-wigs that run it. Most people just want to live free, politicians want POWER.

  27. Unfortunately this is nothing new for the IOC. And given that they felt the need to harass a small oriental-themed collectible card over a logo of five interlocking rings [1, 2], I would take any assurances that they won’t abuse their special rights with a pinch of salt.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legend_of_the_Five_Rings#International_Olympic_Committee
    [2] The old logo [3] only looks like the Olympic rings if you have an extremely bad grasp of topology and are unable to distinguish colours.
    [3] http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Corridor/9884/5rings.gif

  28. “International sporting bodies” like the IOC are really the last bastions of aristocratic privilege left in the world. Yes, it’s terrible for sport and anywhere unfortunate enough to host the games, but would you rather have these blithering idiots still running your country?

  29. Funny. I’m Canadian and I can’t wait to see how the Canadian government takes this now that they’re championing DMCA laws. According to their own just desserts, they should respect the IOC’s copyright and just blip that part of the anthem.

  30. I just sang “O Canada” all the way through.
    I sang the whole thing including the line “with glowing hearts.
    My wife paid me a penny for the performance.

    So sue me, you sorry sons of bitches. You’ll pay more sending your legal team down here for a day than you could ever hope to extract from my broke self.

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