Facebook Twitter

SLOC inhospitable to cybersquatters

SHARE SLOC inhospitable to cybersquatters

All Raymond Cannefax wanted was some publicity for his latest venture, an online directory of area hotels, condos and restaurants looking for customers during the 2002 Winter Games.

Trouble is, Cannefax named his new Web site www.OlympicsHospitality.com.

Shortly after a news release was issued about the site Tuesday, Salt Lake Organizing Committee attorneys were reviewing the use of the word "Olympics," which belongs, by law, to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

A federal lawsuit was filed recently by the USOC along with SLOC and the International Olympic Committee to reclaim some 1,800 Internet domain names worldwide that incorporate the word "Olympic" or its derivatives.

While that lawsuit is aimed only at names registered by individuals or entities outside the United States, the USOC has already taken action against so-called "cybersquatters" in this country.

Kelly Maynard, a USOC staff attorney for trademark matters, suggested Cannefax's company could be next, especially "if they're issuing press releases bragging" about the name of the new Web site.

She said the USOC wants to protect consumers as well as the value of the Olympic trademark. "Part of it is to make sure consumers aren't confused and end up purchasing merchandise from sites that say, 'Olympic this' or 'Olympic that,' " Maynard said.

After all, companies like Delta Air Lines and US WEST have paid tens of millions of dollars for the right to use the Olympics to promote their products, money that goes to the joint marketing partnership between the organizing committee and the USOC.

Salt Lake organizers are concerned, too, since marketing revenues support both the 2002 Games and the U.S. Olympic teams. "SLOC will protect the interests of athletes and our sponsors," organizing committee spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said.

Cannefax, reached by telephone in Chicago, said it never occurred to him there would be a problem because he was able to reserve the Web address with a national online registry, Network Solutions.

"The domain name was available," said Cannefax, who is president and chief operating officer of the company based in Salt Lake City, eCom Only Inc., an Internet commerce portal and search engine.

He said he had been trying for some time to register an Olympic-related name online.

Until two or three weeks ago, however, his requests had been rejected.

When it was accepted, Cannefax said he figured it was now permissible to use Olympic-related names.

"We're not saying we're affiliated with the Olympics. We're not using the gold rings," Cannefax said, adding he plans to get in touch with SLOC when he returns to Salt Lake City next week. "We can get in a very interesting debate over who has the right to use what."

He said he believes his listings will help make the 2002 Games a success. "I see it as an added value to the hospitality community and as a benefit to both SLOC and the International Olympic Committee," Cannefax said.