World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) has successfully convinced the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to revive the group’s lawsuit in an effort to pile drive counterfeiters.
According to WWE, the problem of counterfeiters knocking off the wrestling powerhouse’s trademarks includes vendors who set up shop around major WWE events. The goods are sold offsite but in nearby areas surrounding the sporting arena venues before the wrestling matches are held. However, WWE alleges that, while it can identify counterfeit designs, it does not know the identity of the counterfeiters until the day of the events.
In this particular instance, WWE filed a complaint in March 2014, for injunctive relief in advance of a major event known as Wrestlemania XXX, scheduled to take place in New Orleans in April 2014. In the complaint, WWE alleged that it anticipated unauthorized vendors selling knock off gear around the event venue and asked for a temporary restraining order that would prohibit the sale of any unlicensed gear within five miles of any event venue before WWE events nationwide.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana noted that WWE was under siege from counterfeiters but drew the line at allowing WWE staff or agents to seize and destroy the knock off goods, which the court did not allow. The Fifth Circuit agreed with the District Court, finding that the Trademark Counterfeiting Act was not a license for private companies to take the law into their own hands and seize illegal merchandise. However, remanding the case back to the lower court, the appellate court did find that a judge would have the authority to grant an order that would allow a company’s legal counsel to work with local law enforcement to determine appropriate seizures.
WWE is calling it a knock out against knock offs. WWE told Law360 that, “WWE has used this seizure order procedure historically to combat these counterfeiters and we agree with the Fifth Circuit’s decision that WWE’s use of this procedure was fully consistent with the Lanham Act.”
If your company has questions about counterfeit goods, trademark infringement, or defending your company’s proprietary materials, you need an experienced intellectual property attorney. With more than 35 years of experience representing professional athletes, individuals and businesses in the areas of sports law, intellectual property, and business litigation, James J. “Jim” Thomas II is recognized as an expert across Georgia. If you or your business needs assistance in intellectual property law, sports law, business ventures, handling complex business litigation, or in the analysis, evaluation, and resolution of existing and potential litigation in intellectual property cases, give Jim a call at 404-869-5248 or email him today to set up a consultation.