Zerorez v. U.S. Olympic Committee – A Social Media Free Speech Case

On August 4, 2016, JUX filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) in U.S. District Court on behalf of Zerorez of Minnesota over the right to talk about the Olympics on social media.

  • Case: HSK LLC, d.b.a. ZEROREZ v. United States Olympic Committee
  • Court file number: 0:16-cv-02641 HSK LLC v. United States Olympic Committee
  • Court: United States District Court, District of Minnesota
  • Filed on: August 4, 2016

Lawsuit Documents:

Press Release:

Press Coverage:

  • Law 360– “Carpet Cleaner Says USOC Olympic TM Suit Should Continue “ – October 24, 2016
  • Law 360 – “USOC Wants Suit Over Olympic Marks Tossed” – September 7th, 2016

  • Inside Radio – “USOC Can Run Legal Rings Around Non-Official Ads” – August 15, 2016
  • World Intellectual Property Review – “WIPR survey: Readers agree on ‘overzealous’ IP protection for Olympics” – August 15, 2016
  • IP Kitten – “Are companies allowed to tweet about #Rio2016?” – August 12, 2016
  • Cato Institute – “The Games That Shall Not Be Named: When 21st Century Media Meets 20th Century Copyright Ideals” – August 11, 2016
  • Franchise Times  – “Zerorez Operator Sues Olympics over Free Speech” – August 10, 2016
  • Adweek “10 Ways Brands Are Talking About the Olympics Without Saying ‘Olympics’ And one company that’s suing the USOC” – August 9, 2016
  • Forbes – “This Week in Sports Law: You Probably Didn’t Know That…” – August 7, 2016
  • The Guardian – “Rio 2016 Diary – Battle of the Week” – August 7, 2016
  • Inc. – “How Posting on Social Media About the Olympics Can Get You Sued” – August 6, 2016
  • Managing Intellectual Property – “The Olympics and IP” – August 6, 2016
  • U.S. Night – “Carpet Cleaner Suing US Olympic Committee Over The Right To Hashtag Olympics” – August 6, 2015
  • TechNinja – “How Posting On Social Media About The Olympics Can Get You Sued” – August 6, 2016
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal – “Carpet cleaner Zerorez sues U.S. Olympic Committee over social media ban” – August 5, 2016
  • MPR – “Minnesota carpet cleaner demands hashtag freedom” – August 5, 2016
  • Techdirt – “Minnesota Carpet Cleaning Business Sues US Olympic Committee Over Its Ridiculous Social Media Rules” -August 5, 2016
  • Patch – “St. Louis Park Carpet Cleaner Sues Olympics Over Free Speech” – August 5, 2016
  • Bring Me The News – “MN carpet cleaner sues the Olympics so it can tweet about the Games” – August 5, 2016
  • Archy World News – “Carpet cleaner complains against Olympic ban Hashtag” – August 5, 2016
  • World Intellectual Property Review – “US Olympic Committee grilled over TM bullying” – August 5, 2016
  • Twin Cities Business -“A St. Louis Park Carpet Cleaner Is Suing The U.S. Olympic Committee” – August 4, 2016
  • Pioneer Press – “Minnesota carpet cleaner challenges U.S. Olympic Committee on free speech” – August 4, 2016
  • KTTC – “Small business sues U.S. Olympic Committee over right to talk about Olympics on social media” – August 4, 2016
  • KSTP – “Minn. Company Takes on U.S. Olympic Committee in Battle Over Hashtags on Social Media” – August 4, 2016
  • FOX 9 – “Minnesota company suing the Olympics over free speech” – August 4, 2016
  • PJ Media – “This Small Business Is Suing THE OLYMPICS Over A Hashtag” – August 4, 2016
  • Voactiv – “US Olympic Committee Sued Over Its Dumb Twitter Policy” – August 4, 2016
  • NY Mag – “A Carpet Cleaner Is Suing USOC for the Right to Make Good Olympic Tweets” – August 4, 2016
  • WCCO Radio 830 – “Small Business Sues U.S. Olympic Committee” – August 3, 2016
  • Gizmodo – “Carpet Cleaner Sues For Its Right to Tweet About the Olympics” – August 3, 2016

Related Stories:

Other Resources:


Why did JUX and Zerorez initiate this lawsuit?

This is a First Amendment freedom of speech issue. We are suing to ensure the Constitutional free speech rights of U.S. businesses are not infringed. Threats from the U.S. Olympics have had a chilling effect on small businesses, silencing them out of fear of legal retaliation. Millions of small businesses cannot afford to become official Olympic sponsors, but that doesn’t mean they should be censored from talking about the Olympics online. Businesses should have a right to harmlessly post on social media and wish good luck to their local Olympians or talk about Olympic events. Our client (Zerorez) is a small cleaning company who talks on social media about pets, sports, cleaning tips, and other topics of public interest. Zerorez wanted to engage in public discussion about the Olympics on social media. For example, Zerorez wanted to congratulate local athletes who are competing in Rio. The U.S. Olympic Committee is stifling the free speech rights of patriotic businesses who are excited about their hometown athletes and the Olympic spirit we all hold dear.

Why do we think we can win?

First, we believe the U.S. Olympic Committee is exaggerating their legal authority to prohibit speech about the Olympics in the United States.

Second, we believe all businesses in the United States would be served by greater clarity around what they can say on social media about the Olympics. A declaration from the court could give businesses relief from uncertainty or insecurity. We are not asking the court to let businesses deceptively imply they are Olympic sponsors, but we are asking the court to clarify that businesses have some rights to discuss the Olympics online.

Will Zerorez be flouting the USOC’s directions and posting on social media about the Olympics?

No. The U.S. Olympic Committee’s public threats have silenced Zerorez. Zerorez will not be discussing the Olympics on social media.

Which legal cases would you cite as part of your legal arguments?

We are not prepared to make this available at this time.

Has anything remotely similar to this ever happened before?

To our knowledge, there is no court decision directly addressing the rights of businesses to talk about the Olympics on social media. There are cases were companies have deceptively implied an improper relationship with the Olympics. This is termed “ambush marketing.” Those cases are clearly distinguishable from small businesses who want to participate in discussions on social media about the Olympics.

What other types of cases does our firm litigate?

We have deep experience in business litigation including shareholder rights, contract disputes, securities law, real estate deals, and financial litigation.

Leave a Public Comment