A lawyer for the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) wrote to Olympic Cellars Winery last fall saying its name infringes on the committee's turf.
Some people dream of being recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Others want to make wine that appeals to a national audience.
The owners of Olympic Cellars Winery between Port Angeles and Sequim have achieved both, and it worries them.
A lawyer for the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) wrote to the winery last fall saying its name infringes on the committee’s turf.
“I was in shock,” said co-owner Kathy Charlton. The winery is on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, has a view of the Olympic Mountains and has used the Olympic name since 1992.
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It received permission from a USOC trademark attorney in 1999 to use the Web site www.olympiccellars.com and had not heard from the committee since.
The USOC protects its marks and terminology because they help raise money through official sponsorships and other corporate partners, said spokesman Darryl Seibel.
“In no way are we trying to impede the ability of this company to sell their wine locally and within Western Washington,” he said. “All of the interactions have been very amicable, and it seems to us as if everyone is working toward a fair resolution.”
Through discussions with the USOC, Charlton agreed to add more explicit references to the winery’s Olympic Peninsula location on its Web site.
She did not agree to a USOC demand that the Web site stop selling to people who live outside Western Washington or who have not visited the winery.
She said she has not received a response to a Dec. 17 letter that she faxed the USOC telling them of her intentions. Seibel said the USOC will contact the winery in the next few days.
Jason Bausher in Quinault, Grays Harbor, said he hasn’t heard from the USOC since May, when he notified its legal-affairs office that it was none of its business if he used the term “Best of the Olympic Peninsula” for commerce.
That’s the name of a guidebook he compiled last year, which prompted a letter from the USOC suggesting he could not market his book on the Internet because that could attract clients from outside Western Washington.
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.”
He tangled with the USOC in the mid-1990s over his company’s trademark application but won the committee’s blessing when his lawyer sent a letter saying his company wouldn’t use the Olympics’ five rings mark or offer sports events.
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.
“It seems kind of weird, but that’s the way it’s set up, and I guess you have to deal with it,” he said.
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org