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Monday, July 10, 2000

IOC announces lawsuit against Internet sites with Olympic names

 LAUSANNE, Switzerland (CP-AP) -- Olympic organizers said Thursday they had filed a lawsuit in the United States against more than 1,800 Internet sites, including some owned by Canadians, for misusing the Olympic name.

 "The suit represents the largest action by far brought under the recently enacted Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999," the International Olympic Committee said. "Previously the largest case named about 250 defendants."

 An IOC statement, issued jointly with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Winter Games of 2002, said the suit involved Web sites with a domain name including the words Olympic, Olympiad or related terms in different languages.

 It said the Web addresses had been registered by people living outside the United States. The suit, rather than seeking monetary damages, aims to gain control of the sites.

 Jim Bikoff, managing partner at Silverberg, Goldman & Bikoff, the Washington D.C., law firm representing the IOC, told the Globe and Mail the offending sites belong to domain-name owners in 53 countries, with a number of the sites owned by Canadians.

 "Canada was one of the major countries in terms of unauthorized registrations," Bikoff told the Globe on Wednesday. "Korea and Australia were huge but of the 58 countries involved, Canada was certainly in the top five," he said.

 COA president Bill Warren told the Globe he hadn't been contacted by the IOC or its lawyers on the matter.

 The U.S. court procedure was chosen as the most efficient way of pursuing the problem because the Web sites are registered in the United States, a spokesman said.

 IOC vice-president and Montreal lawyer Dick Pound said the sites damaged the fund-raising potential of official sites used to support athletes and the Olympic Games.

 "These cybersquatters are out there using Olympic properties for their own benefit with no return to the Olympic movement," Pound said.

 The suit was filed June 20 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., a spokesman said. Already about 50 of the sites have been turned over to the Olympic movement without further legal action.

 Anyone can register a Web site address for about $100. This has led to the practice of "cybersquatting," which usually consists of people registering famous names and then trying to sell them for a high fee to their rightful owner.

 Pound said the Olympic movement had three goals in its lawsuit.

 "One, we don't want people making profit from Olympic trademarks that does not get returned to the athletes in some way. Two, we don't want consumers duped into purchasing items they think are Olympic-related when they are not. Three, we need to protect the values of the Olympic movement against uses out there that are clearly illicit."
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