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US Olympic Committee has had absolutely enough of people knitting

Posted by: Laurence Simons 21/06/12

USOC moves to stop people celebrating the Games to maintain the spirit of the Games

Here is a lesson for you to incorporate into the rest of your life and take eventually to the grave: if you're going to aggravate a two million-strong group of people, make sure they're not armed with tiny little weapons in the form of knitting needles.

This one goes out to the US Olympic Committee (USOC), who did that just this week, after they issued a cease and desist to knitting and crocheting group Ravelry. Recap: the Olympic title is double-down locked tight on the copyright front, meaning, ahead of this year's London Olympics, terms such as '2012', 'Olympic' and 'London', are protected from unfair or non-permitted use. How do you copyright the word 'London'? Here's how: by coming down like a ton of well-honed, javelin-throwing bricks on anyone who has the temerity to misuse the Olympic brand. That means the 'Gay Olympics' held in 1982 were in breach. It means any London café trying to shill an 'Olympic-sized breakfast' are in breach. And it means those sweet-as-goodness knitters over at Ravelry can't hold their third annual 'Ravelympics'.

"What!" you gasp. "There's not going to be a Ravelympics this year?" We know, and we are upset too. The USOC's cease and desist has requested Ravelry change the name of the Ravelympics to the Ravelry Games, but we all know it won't be the same. But there is a bigger issue at play here: despite two million knitters being up in arms (and needles, and yarn) about this, enforcing intellectual property rights is vital, lest you lose them.

The Olympic Games, as the pin-up girl for naming rights, gets a lot of public ire for their at-times heavy handed approach to protection, especially as enforced by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). But as Kingston University marketing specialist Francesca Dall'Olmo points out, balancing enforcement while maintaining a public face is a finely honed balancing act that businesses have to achieve.

"They seem to me to be losing sight of what brand management is about," the expert told the Globe and Mail. "Brand management isn't about policing. Yes, it's important for a brand to enforce these sorts of copyrights and to be consistent, but on the other hand they need to create positive brand associations. That's not happening." In a big year for copyright enforcement, the brand repercussions of legal actions against knitters is something to keep in mind.