–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney

In the vast majority of trademark infringement suits reported in the press, plaintiffs – whether they are trademark owners suing third parties for the unauthorized use of a mark or are third party users asking for a judge to declare that their use of a mark is lawful – generally seek injunctive relief. That is, plaintiffs generally ask the courts to order the defendants to undertake some sort of action in connection with a mark. Damages and attorney fees are awarded in some trademark cases, but these tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

Concert tours, however, prompt trademark owners to seek another type of relief – seizure of counterfeit merchandise. Just last week, the Law.com website reported that the merchandising company for Lady Gaga – possibly one of the only acts whose ticket sales aren’t suffering given the state of the economy – filed suit in the Southern District of New York against numerous sellers of counterfeit merchandise. Suits such as these are relatively common in the fields of entertainment and sports, and specifically in the context of concert tours and all-star games, where pumped-up fans and their wallets are brought together. However, such relief is also sought in connection with trade shows, particularly large-scale trade shows that bring together domestic and international suppliers of consumer goods.

Typically, a plaintiff will seek a temporary restraining order and an order for seizure of the goods. If the court grants the order, the U.S. Marshals service will carry out the seizure. Given that many counterfeit goods originate with small, fly-by-night operations, it is possible to obtain a seizure order against even unknown, “John Doe” defendants. The ability to seek such an order and to see swift results via seizure of counterfeit goods is an important weapon in a trademark owner’s arsenal.