Suits Allege Fake Olympic Merchandise Displayed at Trade Show
ATLANTA (AP) _ For the second straight year, Olympic officials have filed a flurry of lawsuits against companies accused of displaying fake Olympic merchandise at the annual sporting goods industry trade show in Atlanta.
Some of the exhibitors in turn accused the Olympic caretakers Wednesday of harassment.
``All of us are shocked,″ said K.H. Naveed Azam, vice president of Assac Industries, a Pakistani company that was sued. ``We are a small company. We are not like Nike. We can’t afford to stay in this expensive country and fight this problem.″
Azam said he had no idea that one of his products, a football with the word ``Olympic″ on it, was illegal.
Five suits were filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Olympic terms and symbols are protected by federal copyright law.
The suits seek injunctions and damages from the companies, which were exhibiting such items as soccer balls, T-shirts and accessories emblazoned with Olympic emblems or words.
Olympic officials also said they had issued 33 cease and desist orders against apparel and sporting goods manufacturers who were hawking unauthorized merchandise at the Super Show in Atlanta this week and at an apparel trade show in Las Vegas last week. Such letters typically are sent in the hopes of stopping illegal activity without a lawsuit.
Olympic officials, who jealously guard their copyrights, said they have no choice but to go after violators.
``The financial support for the 1996 Olympic Games and the U.S. Olympic team comes almost totally from private sources _ from sponsorships, broadcast fees, licensing programs and from individual Americans,″ Bill McCahan, chief marketing officer for the Atlanta Games, said Wednesday.
``It’s critical to protect these sources of funding from infringements by companies who have contributed nothing,″ he said.
The suits were filed against Comme-Ci Comme-Ca Apparel of Bayshore, N.Y.; Joey Coolers Inc. of Darien, Ill.; and Assac Industries, Ali Trading Co. and Khalidsons, all of Sialkot, Pakistan.
Ghazanfar A. Shabbir, chief executive of Ali, said he did not have any Olympic-related items on display. He said an Olympic representative, whom he assumed was a buyer, stopped by the Ali booth on Monday and asked for a catalog.
The Ali catalog includes one rugby ball with the word ``Olympic″ in red block letters. On Tuesday Shabbir was handed the lawsuit.
``We’ve been using that word for many years. It is generic,″ Shabbir said. ``This is harassment of Third World countries. If we have a ball with the word `Atlanta’ on it, next time will the mayor come?″
Dennis Koonce, chief executive officer of Joey’s, declined to comment on the suit. He said he was not selling any Olympic merchandise, though his booth had included an Olympic prop.
Five other companies were sued by the USOC and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games at last year’s Super Show. Those companies either settled or pleaded no contest, said Darby Coker, an ACOG spokesman.
The copyright infringement suits were the latest moves in a busy week for Olympic lawyers. On Monday, ACOG sued two ticket brokers it said were selling seats to the Summer Games at inflated prices.
George Pollington, vice president for one of the brokers, Pall Mall Corporate Hospitality of Jersey City, N.J., said Wednesday his lawyers were discussing a ``quick and amicable″ settlement with ACOG.