MN carpet cleaner sues the Olympics so it can tweet about the Games


In case you didn't know – you can get in big trouble for saying the name of those games going on in Rio. You know, those big international competitions with the athletes? (Hint: It's the Olympics, and we can say it because we're news media.)

A Minnesota company is actually suing the Olympics for that reason, saying it's limiting free speech.

Michael Kaplan owns Zerorez – a carpet cleaning business in St. Louis Park – and he tells FOX 9 he's standing up for all the businesses that have been getting cease and desist letters from the U.S. Olympic Committee demanding the businesses delete any social media posts that violate the committee's trademarks.

How do you violate the Olympic Committee's trademarks?

It's not hard. Just use the word "Olympic" or "Olympian." Or use the phrases "Go for the gold," "Team USA," or "Let the games begin."

You can see a whole list of words, phrases, terms and condition by clicking here.

Basically, businesses can't use those words or phrases – not even as hashtags or retweets – on social media or other websites.

Individuals, news media outlets and official sponsors can, but there are still restrictions.

The lawsuit

JUX Lawfirm in Minneapolis says the lawsuit – filed Thursday – "asks the court to provide clarity to businesses who have been silenced out of fear of the USOC's legal retaliation."

The lawsuit – which you can read here – notes that Zerorez has not been posting about the Olympics out of fear of being hit with a trademark-related lawsuit. And the company is asking the court how businesses should go about supporting the event and local athletes without getting in trouble, and if the strict trademarks violate people's right to free speech.

Attorney Aaron Hall went on to say that this kind of censorship has a negative effect on the "Olympic spirit" and patriotism in general.

“It is ridiculous to suggest small businesses cannot reference the results of an event, congratulate hometown athletes, or use Olympic terms in harmless discussions," Hall said.

The attorney went as far as to call the trademark a form of "bullying."

A look at who's gotten in trouble

A Chicago butcher shop had to change its name after 40 years in the business because the word "Olympic" was in it.

German car-maker Audi got in trouble for its four-ring logo that could (almost) resemble the Olympic rings.

Even some knitters got sent a letter for using the name in a way that the USCOC deemed disrespectful of athletes.

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