Jun 11, 2024 3 min read

Court orders domain of unofficial Pink Floyd merch website to be disabled

Pink Floyd have secured a court order against an unofficial merch website which, they say, is infringing their trademarks and misleading fans. The court also says the rogue site’s domain name should be disabled

Court orders domain of unofficial Pink Floyd merch website to be disabled

A US court has ordered an unofficial Pink Floyd merchandise website to stop infringing the band’s trademarks, on both the products it sells and the website itself. It has also instructed the registry that issues .com domain names, and the registrar through which the site bought its domain, to disable pinkfloydmerch.com. The end result of which will be that people are unable to visit the online store using that domain name.

These demands are made in a temporary restraining order that was issued in response to a lawsuit filed last week by Pink Floyd (1987) Ltd, the UK-based company that manages the band’s intellectual property. The lawsuit accuses pinkfloydmerch.com of operating “a fake online storefront” designed to look like it is offering official Pink Floyd products when, in fact, it is selling “inferior imitations”. 

The band’s company says it has filed the lawsuit in order to protect the trademarks it owns around the Pink Floyd brand, and also to “protect unknowing consumers” from inadvertently buying knock-off merch online.

Ultimately, the company wants pinkfloydmerch.com to be permanently banned from exploiting the band's brand. It also asked for a temporary restraining order so that it can quickly stop the sale of unofficial merch while its lawsuit goes through the motions. 

The operator of pinkfloydmerch.com claims to have an office in California. However, the Pink Floyd company says it suspects that “address is fictitious” because, when it undertook an online search, it found “there is no building with that number on that street”. The pinkfloydmerch.com website also lists a warehouse address in China. 

It’s because the rogue merch operation is based outside the US that it makes sense for the Pink Floyd company to after the website’s domain, which obviously also includes the band’s trademark protected brand. Enforcing the restraining order in China will be tricky, which makes it easy for the rogue merch seller to basically ignore the legal action in the US. 

Most domain names - including those ending .com -  are distributed on a first come first served basis and a company owning a trademark in a brand name doesn't necessarily give it the automatic right to a domain that matches its trademark. However, trademark owners can seek to seize a domain name where they can demonstrate that the current owner of the domain has acted in bad faith. 

The “bad faith” element of this is critical, however. Just because a domain name has been registered and is being used does not necessarily give a trademark owner the right to stop the activity or take the domain. For example, a legitimate fan site operating using a band’s domain name would not necessarily be considered to be operating in bad faith. Where the use of the domain name is misleading, or misrepresents its relationship with a particular trademark, it becomes easier to make that bad faith argument.

“Defendant has registered and/or used its respective cybersquatted subject domain name with the bad faith intent to profit” from the Pink Floyd trademarks, the lawsuit insists. 

The bad faith claim here is mainly based on the argument that fans are being tricked into thinking that they are buying official merchandise. The website does state that it is “the OFFICIAL merchandise store for Pink Floyd fans”. That’s s a sneaky way of not actually claiming to be officially connected to the band, but very heavily implying it. 

Having accepted the need to quickly issue a temporary restraining order, the court has ordered the domain’s registry and registrar to disable the domain within seven days, and then keep it “inactive and untransferable until further order by this court”. 

While that’s a positive development for Pink Floyd (1987) Ltd, the company’s own lawsuit concedes that rogue merch sellers are adept at switching domain names and internet providers as intellectual property owners target them with takedown notices and legal action. It says that protecting the band’s trademarks has become akin to a game of whack-a-mole, a common complaint by those seeking to protect and enforce trademarks and copyright. 

Though, for now, the band's company will be hoping that, at the very least, the pinkfloydmerch.com domain will soon stop operating. 

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