13 September 2017Trademarks

US sports associations unite to tackle counterfeiters

The National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have united in a bid to take down a group of counterfeiters.

In a claim filed at the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on Monday, September 11, the sports associations alleged that an interrelated group, that resides in China or “other foreign jurisdictions”, had infringed their trademarks.

Each of the associations owns a host of trademarks, registered at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

NBA Properties, the owner and licensee of the ‘NBA’ trademarks, owns more than 150 trademarks in the US, covering jerseys, shirts, caps and wrist bands.

In a bid to protect their marks, and in collaboration with the Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports logos (CAPS), the associations have established a programme of trademark protection.

The programme regularly “investigates suspicious websites and online marketplace listings identified in proactive Internet sweeps and reported by a variety of informants in response to the significant counterfeiting of plaintiffs’ trademarks”.

Over the past few years, CAPS has identified thousands of domain names linked to fully interactive, commercial websites and marketplace listings which were selling fakes.

Fake merchandise is nothing new in the world of sports, and the associations regularly take on counterfeiters.

In December last year, sister site TBO reported that the NBA, MLB, and NHL had filed a trademark infringement suit in the same court against unidentified counterfeiters.

Then, in February 2017, the NBA warned fans who planned to attend an All-Star event about the sale of fake merchandise.

The 2017 NBA All-Star Game, an exhibition match between Eastern and Western-based NBA players, was hosted in New Orleans between February 17 and February 19.

“Tactics used by defendants to conceal their identities and the full scope of their counterfeiting operation make it virtually impossible for plaintiffs to learn defendants’ true identities and the exact interworking of their counterfeit network,” said the latest suit.

The associations are seeking injunctive relief, a transfer of infringing domains and damages for wilful counterfeiting of $2 million for each infringing use and $100,000 per infringing domain.

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