AEG Live sues concert bootleggers before they bootlegTue Aug 10, 2010 @ 10:19AM PST
Just because the Mile High Music Festival this weekend in Denver hasn't happened yet, and just because the bootleggers haven't yet set up shop, doesn't mean that hundreds of individuals haven't already been sued.
AEG Live has jumped on a growing legal trend in the concert world by filing a trademark infringement claim against hundreds of John Does and Jane Does. According to AEG's new complaint, "only the plaintiff has the right to sell merchandise bearing the Festival Trademarks at and near the Festival."
AEG is asking a federal court in Colorado to order the US Marshal, local and state police, off duty officers, and AEG agents to seize and impound bootlegged merchandise.
The complaint follows a similar lawsuit filed earlier this summer by UMG's merchandising division, Bravado International Group, in anticipation of a series of concerts by Lady Gaga at New York's Madison Square Garden. That action opened some eyes in the concert industry, showing other outfits how to use the once-rare John Doe trademark lawsuit to get law enforcement involved.
Now, AEG is hoping to replicate Bravado's success. No damage has yet been done. And any follow-up legal action after the concert is doubtful. But of course, one would hardly expect anybody to show up this week in a Colorado court to contest AEG's lawsuit. A supporting brief filed in the case says that defendants do have that opportunity, although AEG submits that "experience shows it is doubtful they will do so."
The brief also says the unnamed defendants "are not neophytes, but rather somewhat sophisticated businessmen who operate in stealth to thwart the legitimate rights of Plaintiff."
Some lawyers defend the action as appropriate. One trademark lawyer pointed out to us that on the criminal side, courts empower police officers with the discretion to execute temporary remedies. And that in this instance, bootleggers are too nomadic to be served summons.
We're less than convinced. The threat of bootleggers is real, of course, but it's based purely on speculation, without evidence of the kind of past specific misconduct that might trigger temporary remedies as seen in criminal proceedings. That seems odd, and perhaps a slippery slope. Why can't any company in America file John Doe trademark action and get police to seize goods they believe will be infringing? What stops this beyond the concert venue?