Athletes sue Samsung over Olympic app

Posted by Emma Woollacott

You might find it interesting to discover just how closely you're linked to Olympic athletes Mark Spitz and Janet Evans - but they're not so keen to get closer to you.

Along with sixteen other Olympians, they're suing Samsung for setting up a Facebook app that, they say, uses their names and pictures withoout permission.

Samsung's Olympic Genome Project is based on the 'six degrees of separation' concept. It accesses friend lists from Facebook to try and establish how users are connected to over 10,000 athletes.

But in a lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles, the 18 Olympians say that their permission was never sought. And, they say, the app gives the impression that they're endorsing Samsung products.

"Plaintiffs’ names and images and background information are on the Facebook application, in an attempt to link plaintiffs to consumers,” reads the complaint.

"Prominently displayed on the Facebook application is the Samsung’s trademarked name as well as advertising for defendants’ ‘Galaxy’ product. Samsung has used plaintiffs’ names and images to create the impression that plaintiffs endorse Defendants’ products and business."

It matters, as athletes are frequently dependent on advertising deals of their own.

Samsung's partner in the project, the United States Olympic Committee, has told Sports Business Daily that it wasn't aiming to commercialize the athletes' names in any way.

"We have honored the requests of the athletes who have filed suit to remove their names, as we offered to do months ago, and of course we will remove any athletes that do not wish to be listed," it says.

The website for the Olympic Genome Project says it will 'connect people across America with Team USA athletes in amazing, unpredictable ways'. Like lawsuits, for example.