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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympic Cellars Cannot Go for the Gold

There is still a week remaining in the Beijing Olympic games for athletes to capture medals, but for Washington's Olympic Cellars the hopes of gold have been cut down in size.

The U.S. Olympic Committee went after the small winery, which is named for the peninsula where it is located and the nearby Olympic Mountains. The Olympic Committee has federal law on its side and can take any business to court that uses the Olympic name. It sounds logical if someone decided to open a chain named "Olympic Training Gym" or if a business such as "Olympic Pest Control" opened in Lake Placid, N.Y. They would clearly be trading off the Olympic trademark.

To go after a business that is named for the region where it is located is a bit of a strong armed approach to trademark protection. Olympic Cellars has been around since 1992 and actually had gained approval from the Olympic Committee in 1999 to use the name for its website address. The Olympic Committee and the winery have reached a compromise that lets the company keep its name and website as long as sales are not "substantial."

Operators of Olympic Cellars cannot disclose the exact terms of the agreement. It appears that as long as the winery sales are primarily local, the Olympic Committee will not complain. It will leave the field open for the committee to find a wine or other beverage sponsor for U.S. teams.

Olympic Cellars owner Kathy Charlton plans to use the "Working Girl Wine" brand more extensively in the future.

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