Olympian Quest Comes to End for Zerorez Operator
Michael Kaplan, a Zerorez franchisee in St. Louis Park, Minnesota
A Zerorez franchisee in Minnesota who took on the U.S. Olympic Committee over free speech rights has had his day in court—and lost. “Unfortunately, the court decided on Tuesday, April 4, to dismiss our case,” said his lawyer, Aaron Hall of JUX law firm in Minneapolis, via email.
Michael Kaplan told Franchise Times last August he was “sick of being cynical” when he decided to sue the U.S. Olympic committee over free speech. He had wanted to congratulate “11 amazing athletes” competing in the Olympics in Rio, using social media to do so, but was warned by his lawyer the USOC was known to be “aggressive” in policing its trademarks. “We are looking to stop encroachment on our free speech and our constitutional rights,” said Kaplan at the time.
U.S. District Court in Minnesota granted the USOC’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit “because there is no concrete dispute between Zerorez and USOC over the use of Olympics-related trademarks,” the filing said. “Under Article III of the United States Constitution, the jurisdiction of federal courts extends only to actual cases and controversies.” It cited Zerorez’s concerns that it might become the target of a trademark-infringement lawsuit as “speculative and one-sided.”
Hall, Kaplan’s attorney, wrote via email, “The USOC won this battle, but the war over free speech is not over…To avoid future legal action, the U.S. Olympic Committee should acknowledge small businesses can reference Olympic events on social media without violating the law, and stop bullying patriotic businesses who express their Olympic spirit online.” Hall said they haven’t decided whether to appeal.