The National Football League has launched a preemptive strike against vendors of unlicensed Super Bowl merchandise by receiving permission to seize the property.
Marion Superior Court has granted temporary restraining and seizure orders to the NFL, along with the New England Patriots and New York Giants, after they requested injunctions on Jan. 25.
The orders give the NFL and the two Super Bowl teams the authority to seize unlicensed merchandise without notice. Those caught selling items without proper trademarks face financial penalties and will have their merchandise confiscated.
“Previous trademark protection efforts during the Super Bowl period demonstrate that the professional infringers who ‘work’ the site of the game will defy or avoid temporary restraining orders and will continue to sell their counterfeit merchandise in any possible manner,” the NFL said in its suit. “The only effective way to combat this problem is to seize the goods at the point of sale.”
The restraining and seizure orders take effect at noon on Friday and last through Monday, the day after the game.
The NFL has at least 20 registered trademarks protected by the court orders. They include Super Bowl, Super Sunday, SB46, Super Bowl XLVI, as well as National Football League, American Football Conference and National Football Conference.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy design and the designs of the Patriots’ and Giants’ logos also are protected.
“Plaintiffs have shown that notice need not be given because vendors and manufacturers of counterfeit NFL merchandise have no business identity and cannot be identified, located or notified … and if so notified would flee with the counterfeit merchandise,” Judge Cynthia Ayers wrote in granting the orders.
The NFL said in its lawsuit that it has employed security officers to search for counterfeit merchandise since Super Bowl XVII in Pasadena, Calif., in 1983. The league annually handles hundreds of instances of unauthorized use of NFL trademarks, it said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced on Jan. 26 that a sting beginning in September resulted in the seizure of 304 parcels containing 10,710 fake NFL jerseys at Los Angeles and Ontario international airports.
Most unlawful merchandise is produced by large-scale, professional counterfeiters through networks of anonymous and mobile middlemen and street vendors who descend on a Super Bowl host city a few days before the game and disappear without detection, according to the suit.
Cases usually are settled with the infringer’s agreement to quit selling the unlicensed merchandise, the NFL said. But when infringers persist, the league typically obtains injunctions in federal or state court.
“It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify the source of any given counterfeit merchandise that is sold in a retail store, at a street stand, or out of portable containers,” the NFL said in its complaint.
The NFL has agreements with roughly 150 companies that are licensed to produce merchandise relating to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
The Reebok-Adidas plant on the east side of the city, a major producer of licensed NFL mechandise, is set to lose its contract with the league following the Super Bowl.