SALT LAKE CITY-The U.S. Olympic Committee is upset over Discount Tire Co. Inc. billboards that it says use Olympic symbols without permission.
In a lawsuit filed Jan. 7 in Salt Lake City federal court, the USOC claims Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Discount Tire knowingly violated the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which gives the committee exclusive control of how Olympic symbols and terminology are used in advertising.
At issue are four billboards Discount Tire put up on Interstate 15 in Salt Lake City, home of the upcoming 2002 Winter Olympics, and nearby Ogden, Utah. The billboards depicted tires interlocked in the manner of the Olympic rings and greeted visitors in several languages.
The billboards ``inaccurately suggest a commercial affiliation with the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement,'' according to a USOC press release.
According to the suit, the USOC discovered the billboards Dec. 12, and immediately contacted Discount Tire demanding their removal. The tire dealer promised to remove them by Jan. 4, but one still stood on Jan. 7. The committee therefore went ahead with the suit.
Although the last billboard has since been taken down, the USOC still seeks damages and attorneys' fees against Discount Tire. ``We gave them a month worth of opportunities to take the billboards down, and they didn't do so,'' said Art Berger, an attorney with the Salt Lake City firm of Ray Quinney & Nebeker, who was retained by the USOC.
Since the suit was filed, the USOC and Discount Tire have held settlement talks, according to Mr. Berger. The tire dealership has until Jan. 27 to respond to the suit, he said. Officials of Discount Tire declined comment.