Hip hop group Run-DMC sues Amazon and Walmart over fakes

2016 wasn't Amazon's best year when it came to criticisms over counterfeits, and it ended on a sour note – a $50m lawsuit against the online retailer by iconic rap group Run-DMC for trademark infringement.

The lawsuit, which also targets retailers Walmart and, as well as about 20 other unnamed defendants, alleges the stores don't have the rap group's permission to sell Run-DMC branded and logo-bearing products such as glasses, T-shirts, wallets and hats.

Run-DMC, which was founded in 1981 by Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, Joseph "Run" Simmons and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, is known for hits including Aerosmith collaboration Walk This Way and has been credited for making hip hop more mainstream.

The lawsuit states the retailers are "advertising, selling, manufacturing, promoting and distributing multiple products with the logo", which are counterfeits, and alleges the stores are capitalising on the goodwill associated with the brand and are using the brand for profit by partnering with sellers who are infringing the trademark.

The infringement practice has been ongoing for three years, the lawsuit claims.

Founding member of the hip hop group and lawsuit plaintiff, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, claimed the fake products violated federal trademark laws and deceived consumers into thinking the products were distributed by the genuine Run-DMC brand.

The case alleges the "plaintiff will suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage" unless the infringements are stopped, adding that the infringements dilute the brand and harm its ability to "utilise, market, promote and sell products with its registered trademark".

The group is seeking $50m in damages, as well as an injunction and restraining order against sales and promotion of the products.

According to media reports, since the founding of the hip hop group in 1981, Run-DMC has generated more than $100m from intellectual property, with the brand previously licensed to sportswear companies such as Adidas, which has a $1.6m agreement.

Amazon and Walmart have not yet responded to the lawsuit.

For Amazon, this is the third lawsuit in as many months over allegations of counterfeits sold on its platform. In November last year, a US family sued the e-commerce site for $30m alleging that a hoverboard toy that was bought from the online retailer was counterfeit and caught fire, destroying the family's $1m home.

Then in December, makers of the Snuggie blanket and other "as sold on TV" products took Amazon to court claiming trademark infringement from "astronomical" numbers of counterfeits, which were "hijacking" product display pages on the online marketplace.

Walmart has also previously been accused of opening its website to third party vendors who have sold counterfeit products.

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