Beatles Fake Merch Lawsuit Win Demonstrates How The System Actually Works
A slew of recent legal wins by The Beatles Apple Corps against 77 infringing counterfeit entities should theoretically be a windfall of cash, but actually collecting from the defendants in question can be difficult, the hope instead being that such cases will serve as a warning to future infringers.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0
It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or musical artist, as soon as you get some level of success there will be others trying to steal a bit of it. Many times this is in the form of counterfeit merchandise that may bear your logo or trademark. The problem is trying to catch the people or companies behind the fake merch and then what to do about it.
A recent lawsuit brought by The Beatles Apple Corps against not one but 77 counterfeiters is a good illustration of what usually happens in the case like this.
Filed in federal court in Florida last November, the lawsuits accused the defendants of of illegally using the phrases ‘The Beatles’ and ‘Beatles’ on fake merch. Both were trademarked in 1993, which was 30 past the band’s original success, but still well before the alleged infringement. The list of items using the logo included everything from sweaters to carpets, fridge magnets and watch straps, cellphone cases and even bed linen.
So what happened that was so typical in cases like these? Each defendant was on the hook for $1 million, and exactly none of them showed up in court. That meant that Apple Corp won each by default for a cool total of $77 million.
Hooray for The Beatles, right? It’s easy to win in a case like this, but the hard part is collecting, as the defendants and their fake merch disappear like the wind.
About the only thing you can hope for is that the lawsuit victory acts as a deterrent to other potential counterfeiters in the future. That’s just what the Florida judge who ruled on the case thought when he said, “The award should be sufficient to deter defendants and others from continuing to counterfeit or otherwise infringe plaintiffs’ trademarks, compensate plaintiffs, and punish defendants”.
Now it’s one thing for a music brand as powerful as The Beatles to win a trademark case like this, it’s another thing altogether if you’re an artist that’s just getting going, as you may not have the resources to even find the infringers. It does show the value of obtaining a trademark though, especially if you’re well-branded beyond your music.