Olympic Cellars Winery, Olympic Committee settle

Business allowed to use name, Web address but is restricted in distribution

  • Tuesday, March 18, 2014 6:55pm
  • News

A recent agreement between Olympic Cellars Winery and the U.S. Olympic Committee is that Olympic is an acceptable word if used in the right circumstances. The words Olympiad, Citius, Altius and Fortius, however, remain out of reach for businesses on the North Olympic Peninsula.

After a nine-month challenge, the committee is allowing the winery to use the word Olympic in its name and on its Web site, www.olympiccellars.com.

The winery can distribute as much wine as it can under that name in the state of Washington west of the Cascade Mountains. It also can sell wine east of the Cascades if the sales are not determined to be "substantial."

"I feel the agreement meets both parties’ primary objectives," said Kathy Charlton, Olympic Cellars co-owner. "The nine-month time frame is ironic, considering I could have birthed a baby … but could have also lost my baby – a winery that is part of the Olympic Peninsula’s heritage."

The use of those five words for businesses, goods or services is restricted by the committee based on authority given by a 1978 act of Congress. A 1998 amended version of the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, championed by Alaskan Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, allows the use of the word Olympic by businesses on the Olympic Peninsula if they keep their business in Western Washington.

"Use of the word ‘Olympics’ to identify a business or goods or services is permitted (if) … it is evident from the circumstances that such use of the word ‘Olympic’ refers to the naturally occurring mountains or geographical region of the same name that were named prior to Feb. 6, 1998," the act reads.

Olympic Cellars has had its name since 1992. Since the 1990s, however, the Internet has made small businesses much more accessible to a national market. As written, the federal act prevents Olympic Peninsula businesses from engaging in commerce beyond Western Washington if the "O" word is in their name.

"We will be forced to remain small even though the term Olympic is our birthright and heritage," Charlton said. "I believe Congress must amend the 1998 Stevens Act to comprehend the dramatic changes in both electronic commerce and our flattened, global economy."

The hold on growth is counter to Charlton’s ambition. She and business partners Libby Sweetser and Molly Rivard bought the winery in 1999 and cultivated it back to vitality over the next few years. They even planted a new vineyard.

The partners received a letter from the committee on Sept. 11, 2007, asking them to relinquish the "O" word less than three years before the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.

While usage of the word Olympic is restricted, Charlton also has a special line of wines called Working Girl Wine, which is associated with several philanthropic programs supporting the physical and emotional well-being of women.

"Though my Working Girl Wine brand was exempted from all restrictions," Charlton said, "the bottom line is that I can’t significantly grow a brand that incorporates the winery name."

Charlton doesn’t want to turn away Internet sales, but she is faced with another touchy word, "substantial." She said it never was defined, but added that both parties were satisfied with the agreement’s wording.

Charlton said she was especially happy to hear her business would not be as regulated in the state, meaning she and her partners will be able to compete in the growing wine making industry in Washington and they will be able to continue to promote the peninsula as a viable place to grow grapes. The winery was a co-sponsor of a grape growing study based on the North Olympic Peninsula that showed the propagation of certain grape varieties is feasible in the area.

More information on the winery can be found at www.olympiccellars.com and www.workinggirlwines.com.

Charlton and her winery were not the only ones from the peninsula regulated by the committee. Businesses around the Olympic Peninsula have been getting letters from the committee for years. The committee protects its trademarks because they help raise money through official sponsorships.

But to Quinault writer Jason Bausher, who penned "Best of the Olympic Peninsula," his use of the word was none of the committee’s business.

Dozens of businesses that use Olympic in their names and products are not contacted by the committee because their reach is not far enough to warrant a reaction. Olympic Cellars’ popularity caused the committee to take note of the growing business with the word Olympic in its name and its Web address.

"My situation has clearly pointed out how unjust it is to limit business growth in this region simply because it shares a name with a word that the (committee) has rights to," Charlton said, indicating she could understand regulation if the businesses directly competed with the Olympics’ primary sponsors. "But look at someone like Jason (Bausher), who can only market his book online and (the committee) is trying to restrict that reach."

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