The Olympics, trademark, and free speech

Britian’s Spectator newspaper publishes an angry rant condemning the trademark overzealousness of the 2012 Olympics, which, in the service of preventing so-called “ambush marketing”, has banned the use of Olympics-related words and symbols in instances that look more than a bit nonsensical. A local florist was told to take an Olympic-ring flower arrangement out of her window. A group of real estate agents were threatened with a lawsuit for making Olympic-torch-shaped “for sale” signs. And a group of baking enthusiasts were told they could not sponsor a Olympics-themed cake-decorating competition.

So the gold medal for trademark overenforcement goes to the International Olympic Committee and their U.K. enforcement arm.  Not an award that anyone is going to brag about.

Stuff that athletes trademark . . . it gets weird

Here’s a really interesting article listing some of the things that athletes (and sports agents and entrepreneurs) have trademarked.  Some highlights:

– Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has trademarked his hook shot.  Really? Would another basketball player be sued by the former L.A. Laker superstar for using it in a game? Especially considering that Kareem didn’t invent it?

– Tennis great John McEnroe has trademarked the phrase “You cannot be serious!”, which is a substantially cleaned-up version of what he used to scream at referees. I propose that the scores if not hundreds of refs McEnroe abused should get a cut of royalties.

– And in perhaps the most insane entry in the list, boxing announcer Michael Buffer (who I’d never heard of before now even though I am a boxing fan) has trademarked the phrase “Let’s get ready to rumble!”, which is how he typically introduces a bout. And he’s apparently made over $400 million in licensing revenue from the trademark.

We are in the wrong business.