Minnesota Carpet Company Sues USOC Over Free Speech

Minnesota based carpet cleaning company, Zerorez, has filed a suit against the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) over its social media ban that was placed on companies that were not sponsors during the 2016 summer Olympics.

Zerorez is seeking “a declaration that Zerorez and other businesses can engage in free speech on social media without infringing on the rights of USOC,” said Zerorez attorney Aaron Hall.

The USOC owns various trademarks having to do with the Olympics, including logos and hashtags. This means that the USOC has full control over terms such as “Olympics”, “#RIO2016”, and “#TeamUSA”. The USOC is allowed to limit who uses these terms, and they have limited use to only those companies who are sponsors.

USOC states in their “Brand Usage Guidelines” that unless a company’s main line of business is to disseminate news, the USOC assumes use of the trademarks is commercial and thus banned. If Zerorez had used a trademarked term within “fair use” guidelines, then they would have a better argument against USOC, but instead, Zerorez seems to be arguing that the terms should not be trademarked at all because it limits free speech.

Since this case seems to be Zerorez arguing that the USOC should not have control over its trademarks I expect this case to be thrown out.

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