In just six years, Portland, Oregon’s Olympic Provisions has gone from a small restaurant with an attached charcuterie facility to a major brand complete with Portlandia immortality and an upcoming cookbook. And now it has to change its name, thanks to a cease-and-desist notice from the International Olympic Committee, the organization that coordinates the Olympic Games. OP co-founder/meat-maker Elias Cairo says OP’s two restaurants (one of which has been a longtime member of the Eater Portland 38) and meat department will soon re-brand into Olympia Provisions, bypassing the trademark dispute by altering one letter.
The former Olympic Provisions says it was caught up in the IOC’s periodic “random sweeps” — which sounds an awful lot like the sort of behavior one district court memorably called out when dealing with a trademark bully.
The owner of a mark is not required to constantly monitor every nook and cranny of the entire nation and to fire both barrels of his shotgun instantly upon spotting a possible infringer.
But that is very much the way of the IOC, and it monitors every nook and cranny of the entire world with its fingers on the trigger. The cease-and-desist it sent to the former Olympic Provisions was so overwrought that the owners first thought it was a joke. But a discussion with its lawyers made it clear it wasn’t. The IOC’s tactics would be laughable if only they weren’t so often successful and damaging to the businesses on the receiving end.
“We start looking around at everything we’ve branded, from packaging to restaurants to delivery trucks,” Cairo says of the costs to change OP’s name. “To put a dollar figure on it would be impossible.”
The IOC doesn’t care about the source of the business names it finds infringing. It will make exceptions for businesses located around geographic features that already carry the name “Olympic,” pretty much limiting US use of the term to the Washington area. And the local arm of the IOC — the United States Olympic Committee — will step in if the marketed goods bearing an Olympic brand are sold outside of that region.