San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. United States Olympic Committee

PETITIONER: San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc.
RESPONDENT: United States Olympic Committee
LOCATION: Highway 80, Solano County, California

DOCKET NO.: 86-270
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 483 US 522 (1987)
ARGUED: Mar 24, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1987

ADVOCATES:
John G. Kester - on behalf of Respondents
Mary C. Dunlap - on behalf of Petitioners

Facts of the case

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Question

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Media for San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. United States Olympic Committee

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 24, 1987 in San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. United States Olympic Committee

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear argument now in No. 86-270, San Francisco Arts and Athletics, Inc. versus United States Olympic Committee.

Ms. Dunlap, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Mary C. Dunlap:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, the United States Olympic Committee in both its statutory and its constitutional position in this case, aims and hits wide of the mark.

Congress, in the enactment of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 sought to bestow upon the United States Olympic Committee a trademark and, among other things, the word "Olympic".

The legislative history on this matter is plain.

In part it states, in a letter from the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, and this is at Page 7495 of the Congressional Code and Administrative News for the pertinent Bill,:

"It is our understanding that this sub-section.... "

The sub-section at issue in this case.

"# is intended to make actionable those marks which falsely represent an association with the Olympics. "

So, we know at the very least, from the legislative history, that the purpose and the intent of the user of the word "Olympic" does matter under the Statute.

Congress cared whether a user of the word U.S. Olympic Committee or not.

It is our position in this case that the very first issue that should have been tried below was whether the "Gay Olympic Games" sponsors' use of the word "Olympic" had any tendency whatsoever to confuse, to cause mistake or to falsely suggest some relationship with the United States Olympic Committee.

A number of facts in the record would have borne upon that question, had the lower Court afforded us a trial.

For example, there would have been the fact that San Francisco Arts and Athletics offered to place a disclaimer of an appropriate size and appropriate effectiveness on all of its paraphernalia, claiming

"Not associated with the United States Olympic Committee. "

Perhaps more important and more to the point in this case, is the fact that the founders of the Dr. Waddell's letter, Dr. Waddell being the primary volunteer and founder of the games, who was also sued as a party Defendant below, to Mr. Miller, who was then the Executive Director of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

He wrote him a letter explaining why this particular organization claimed a right and wished to have consent to use the word "Olympic", and he said, I think, in the most important part of that letter:

"Colonel Miller, these games are very specialized indeed. "

"Our outreach and emphasis differs widely from the traditional Olympic Games, in that we, openly gay people around the world are struggling to produce an image that more closely resembles the facts, rather than some libidinous stereotype generated over decades of misunderstanding and intolerance. "

In short, the essence of the U.S. Olympics, the U. S. Olympic Team and the International Olympic Games.

There was no confusion, we submit, nor was any proved below in the case of the gay users of the word "Olympic" and Congress cared, again, whether such confusion or false association was shown and it cared enough to put in the statute the language

"tending to cause confusion, mistake or the like. "

The language referred to, I mean, the full phrase is

"the words "Olympic", "Olympiad", "Citius Altius Fortius" or any combination or simulation thereof tending to cause confusion. "

Mary C. Dunlap:

That is, indeed, one reading of the statute.

As the Court realizes, what Congress, I think, did not do--

It is reading it without a comma, which is the way it is written.

Mary C. Dunlap:

--Well, it is reading it, it seems to me, also without attention to Congress' purpose, which was to prohibit uses of the word "Olympic", whether or not in combination, which misled people.

Well, how do you know that?