HEBRON, Maine — The Redneck Olympics were already bigger than most expected by Sunday, when figures showed that about 2,600 people had attended the weekend festival.
Attention from the United States Olympic Committee has kept organizer Harold Brooks in the spotlight.
Brooks, who owns Harold Brooks Construction, has been contacted by lawyers and journalists from around the world. Fox News and even the Times of London have contacted him in recent days over his defiance of the United States Olympic Committee.
His biggest obstacle is the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which gives the Olympic Committee legal ownership of the word “Olympics.” The committee said Brooks could face a lawsuit if he refuses to change the name.
A USOC spokesman said the exclusive legal right to the word “Olympics,” and the licensing that comes from it, are a source of revenue for the USOC.
Rite Heimes, a professor at the University of Maine School of Law who specializes in trademark law, said Brooks doesn’t have much of a chance against the committee.
“I don’t see why use of the words ‘The Redneck Olympics’ is any less a violation of this statute than the ‘Gay Olympic Games,’ which was prohibited by this statute,” Heimes wrote in an email.
Legal professionals are weighing in on legal blogs. Staci Zaretsky, a law school graduate and an editor for the blog “Above the Law,” wrote that “most people know better than to screw with the Committee.”
“I guess Brooks isn’t familiar with trademark law,” Zaretsky wrote.
However, legal scholar and George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley defended Brooks.
“The Olympics is a historical term used for sporting games,” Turley wrote in his blog. “It seems grossly unfair that one group can claim such a historical term — in existence since 776 BC. Why not trademark the term ‘marathon’ or ‘Mardi Gras?’”
Aside from the Special Olympics, which has special permission from the USOC, several games use the word “Olympics.” Louisiana has the Louisiana Senior Olympic Games and the Georgia Golden Olympics take place each September.
Brooks, who said he’s not afraid of the Olympic Committee, said his event is a parody of the Olympics, a defense he hopes to take to court.
“It’s a comedy act,” Brooks said of the Redneck Olympics. “I don’t think they can touch me.”
Parody has been recognized as a form of fair use, an exception to trademark law, even when done for profit.
Brooks said he expects the USOC to try, anyway. Now that his story has attracted attention, he said he expects the USOC to make an example of him.
“They have no choice but to come after me,” Brooks said.
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