Illinois Judge Grants Temporary Restraining Order Against MLB, NHL, and NBA Counterfeiters

On November 6, 2015, U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood filed a temporary restraining order (TRO), prohibiting unidentified online retailers from producing and distributing counterfeit sporting merchandise.

The suit, brought in Illinois federal court last month by MLB, NHL, and NBA league affiliates, seeks to prevent the defendant retailers from selling products featuring their logos and claims $2 million in damages for the use of their trademarks. In their suit, the leagues claim that online retailers — believed to be based in China — have created numerous online forums, which use their trademarks and sell merchandise without a license. The TRO was granted after the plaintiffs put forth facts and evidence supporting their claim that the continued sale of counterfeit merchandise would cause “immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage”.

The immediate effect of the TRO is that it will prevent the online retailers from continuing to sell the counterfeit merchandise. However, the problem for the plaintiffs is that the retailers have hidden their identities and relationship to one another. As such, the TRO requires the defendant retailers to identify themselves and any other website used in the production or sale of their merchandise. Judge Wood also demanded that any entity associated with the counterfeit operation, including banks or payment processors, assist in providing information relating to the defendants identity.

This is not the first case of online distributors being sued for the sale of counterfeited sporting merchandise. The NFL brought a similar lawsuit back in 2013 when the league was awarded a $273 million judgment and nearly 2,000 online retailers were shutdown.

The current TRO is in effect and a status hearing is to take place on November 18, 2015.

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