GUNS N’ ROSES‘ merchandising company has filed a lawsuit to get a judge’s order that it can use to direct federal marshals, and authorize local and state police and agents hired by the company to seize bootleg T-shirts and similar items during the band’s current tour.
Global Merchandising filed the complaint in New Jersey three days before the band’s August 5 concert at MetLife Stadium for trademark infringement and unfair competition against various unnamed defendants described in the complaint as “parties who are selling unlicensed and infringing merchandise bearing the trademark, likenesses and logos of the musical group known as GUNS N’ ROSES.” The defendants were, according to the complaint, going to “sell unauthorized merchandise bearing the names, logos, likenesses, trademarks and artwork of musical performers without their permission and without payment of royalties to them.”
The complaint went on to note that “about 400,000 people are expected to attend the GUNS N’ ROSES concerts on its present tour.”
Kenneth Feinswog, a lawyer for Global Merchandising Services Ltd., said in the court filing: “During the past 35 years of tremendous commercial growth of popular music, the public has not only purchased millions of records and concert tickets for entertainment but has further sought to identify themselves with and declare allegiance to their favorite performers by purchasing various articles of merchandise, t-shirts, patches, posters, photographs, jerseys, caps, belt buckles, jackets and other items that embody the names, photos, likenesses, logos, trademarks and/or artwork of such performers. Unquestionably, the aforementioned public statement of identification and allegiance to the performers and the souvenir value of the aforesaid merchandise is the reason why fans will pay more than $35.00 for a t-shirt displaying the performer’s name or likeness which t-shirt might otherwise retail (without such name or likeness) for $4.00.
“Concurrently with the growth of the legitimate merchandising business, an illegal multi-million dollar industry has developed in the United States involving the unlawful manufacture, sale and distribution of ‘bootleg’ merchandise bearing the names, trademarks, trade names, likenesses or artwork relating to popular entertainers.”
He continued: “Defendants are individuals and companies commonly referred to as ‘bootleggers’ of merchandise who, without permission or authorization, misappropriate the names, likenesses, logos, symbols, artwork and/or trademarks of performing artists and musical groups for use on merchandise that the ‘bootlegger’ Defendants peddle to the general public in order to cash in on the musical performer ‘s huge commercial value and reputation, all in violation of the rights of those individuals and companies that possess the exclusive right to engage in such commercial activity.
“To add insult to injury, the merchandise that the bootleggers manufacture and sell is, in most instances, of inferior quality and not only violates Plaintiffs ‘ rights but adversely affects the general public and irreparably injures the performers ‘ reputations for excellence and integrity in the pursuit of their professional careers.
“The glut of bootleg merchandise on the market deprives the artists, whose names, likenesses, symbols, logos and designs appear on the illicit infringing merchandise, of the earnings and credit that they (the artists) deserve from the investment of their capital and their creative energies into the development of their careers. These artists have licensed other companies to engage in legitimate merchandising activities on said artists ‘ behalf (such as Global Merchandising Services, Ltd.) and these companies are suffering as well from the competitive effects of the illegal activities conducted by Defendants.”
Feinswog added: “Defendants are preventing these artists from controlling the manner in which the artists desire to be presented to the general public and have given the public the false impression that their illicit and inferior merchandise was either sponsored or approved by those artists.
“Moreover, since the bootleggers pay no royalties, and no fees to the stadium or concert hall where their illegal product is peddled, and upon information and belief, no taxes in connection with the sale of said merchandise, the bootleggers (defendants herein) are able to undercut the prices of the legitimate vendors who abide by the law in the conduct of their
business activities to Plaintiffs ‘ substantial detriment.
“These bootleggers are, plainly and simply, parasites who wrongfully profit from the tremendous energies and reputations of performers in the entertainment industry, and who flagrantly and unlawfully impede such artists in their personal and professional advancement.”
Global Merchandising filed a similar lawsuit three years ago prior to the start of SLAYER‘s farewell tour.
In August 2010, Live Nation filed a lawsuit against several “John Does” in advance of that month’s Ozzfest in Devore, California. (“John Doe” is a term used in lawsuits for individuals whose actual names are not yet known.) Live Nation was attempting to get a court order that would have federal and local law enforcement authorities seize and impound trademark-infringing gear at Ozzy Osbourne‘s traveling festival. AC/DC also filed a similar suit ahead of its 2016 U.S. tour.