No Pole Vaulting At ImprovOlympic

Chicago comedy club ImprovOlympic and its counterpart in Los Angeles are changing their names after the U.S. Olympic Committee threatened to sue over trademark infringement.

ImprovOlympic owner Charna Halpern said the club is in the process of changing its moniker to I.O. The Los Angeles version, ImprovOlympic West, will change to I.O. West.

According to Halpern, the USOC owns the “Olympic” trademark and feels the clubs were causing confusion.

“It’s not like we’re causing great confusion,” Halpern told Pollstar. “[Comedian] Andy Dick and I were talking and he said, ‘Yeah, I came to ImprovOlympic for pole vaulting. I was very disappointed to find out it was a comedy club.'”

USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said the committee is chartered by federal law and that part of that law gives them the right to regulate the Olympic name.

“The USOC is not only authorized, but it is expected, that we will manage and protect the use of Olympic marks and terms here in the United States,” Seibel told Pollstar.

He added many corporations are official sponsors of the USOC, and part of what the companies receive as sponsors is the right to use the marks and terms.

“They’re very valuable and, in fact, they constitute our lifeblood in terms of generating revenue to support our athletes,” he said. “If those marks and terms become devalued, it would hinder our ability to generate revenue.”

The dispute began more than 20 years ago after the Chicago club opened, according to Halpern. The Los Angeles club opened five years ago.

Mitchell Peters