US music firms sue John Doe to tackle merch bootleggers

By | Published on Monday 16 August 2010

Live music giants AEG Live and Live Nation last week followed a lead set by Universal Music’s merchandising company Bravado and went to the US courts with so-called ‘John Doe lawsuits’ in a bid to force law enforcement officials to crack down on illegal merchandisers.

Earlier this year, Bravado sued unnamed and probably unknown bootleggers who the Universal-owned company reckoned would try to sell unofficial Lady Gaga branded stuff outside venues where the popstress was playing. They accused said unknown bootleggers of infringing their trademark rights. The aim of the lawsuit was to give the police the power to seize counterfeit goods being sold by bootleg merchandisers, and even to obligate them to do so.

Last week AEG Live filed a similar John Doe lawsuit ahead of their Mile High Music Festival in Denver, while Live Nation went a similar route to stop bootleg Ozzfest merchandise being sold around the Ozzy Osbourne festival this weekend.

It’s not clear how successful these novel attempts to crack down on bootleg merchandise have really been, though the approach has caused some debate in legal circles. Those who support the approach say that most counterfeit merchandise sellers run sophisticated businesses deliberately set up to try to thwart anyone protecting their intellectual property rights, and that these kind of lawsuits coupled with police action are the only way to tackle the problem.