NFL tries to block counterfeit tickets ahead of Super Bowl

America’s National Football League is taking legal action against counterfeits ahead of February’s Super Bowl competition.

Alongside the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL is suing “large-scale professional counterfeiters” for allegedly producing and selling fake merchandise featuring the trademarks and logos of the NFL and NFL member clubs.

The football body is also targeting counterfeiters that are producing and distributing counterfeit Super Bowl tickets. 

The NFL claims the actions of counterfeiters have caused damages, injuries and expenses in excess of $50,000.

“By selling the counterfeit merchandise and counterfeit tickets, defendants seek to trade off he enormous popularity of the NFL and its championship game, as well as the goodwill inherent in plaintiff’s valuable trademarks and the trademarks of the member clubs,” the NFL said in court documents, adding that the “defendants’ counterfeiting irreparably injures the public and plaintiffs” by deceiving consumers and infringing the value of the NFL trademarks.

The NFL is seeking a temporary restraining order, injunction and seizure order “to stop the continued deception of the public and irreparable injury to plaintiffs”.

The football season culminates in the championship game known as the Super Bowl game and is considered the country’s premier sporting event. In 2018, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will be competing to win the title.

The event is backed with a strong commercial and merchandising franchise including apparel, accessories, novelty items and other products, which feature the relevant NFL trademarks and logos.

The NFL has licensed about 180 third parties to produce and sell merchandise, requiring that NFL products or packaging to be affixed with a security hologram tag to prove authentication. About 95 companies are specifically licensed to produce merchandise specific to this year’s Super Bowl.

However, because of its popularity, the event is often a target of counterfeiters, selling “substantial quantities” of both fake tickets and knockoff merchandise.

The NFL claims the counterfeiters – a group of corporations, partnerships, proprietorships, unincorporated associations and individuals distributing goods through large networks of itinerant resellers – often use fictitious names, business addresses, and sham forms of business organisations to avoid detection, and they often disappear promptly after the game “leaving town without a trace”.

“Plaintiffs have expended significant resources to investigate and stop this counterfeiting, to prevent the public from being deceived, and to protect plaintiffs’ reputation for high quality products – recognised by the public through plaintiffs’ well-known trademarks,” the court documents said.

The NFL said it has worked with local law enforcement officers and the Department of Homeland Security for years in a bid to protect the public from fakes. In addition, it has established an investigative unit to investigate instances of unauthorised use of trademarks and to take action when necessary.

While the NFL notes the source of the counterfeits and identities of the counterfeiters are unknown and “not presently capable of ascertainment”, the NFL is “informed and believe” counterfeiters will be present at the Super Bowl game, advertising and selling bogus merchandise and fake tickets.

“These professional infringers recognise the illegality of their conduct and thwart NFLP’s investigative efforts by concealing their identities, using middlemen, or transferring the merchandise upon detection,” the court documents allege. “NFLP’s previous trademark protection efforts during the Super Bowl game period demonstrate that the professional infringers who “work” the site of the Super Bowl game will defy or avoid temporary restraining orders and will continue to sell their counterfeit merchandise and counterfeit tickets in any possible manner. The only effective way to combat this problem is to seize the goods at or before the point of sale.”

The NFL also claims there are no other adequate legal alternatives to crackdown on the sale of fakes.

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