SBD/January 12, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

NFL Cracking Down On Counterfeit Merchandise From Look-Alike Websites

Teams grapple with proliferation of rogue websites claiming to be official stores
There is a “burgeoning problem for the NFL: counterfeit merchandise sold from look-alike websites based in China,” according to a front-page piece by Gus Sentementes of the Baltimore SUN. The NFL in the past year has “filed a pair of lawsuits targeting 80 operators, mostly based in China, who were selling knock-off merchandise through hundreds of sites.” Official league merchandise “is a $3 billion annual industry for the NFL and retailers.” How many of the goods will be counterfeit “is largely unknown -- but for legitimate businesses, the underground market hurts their bottom line and costs the NFL millions a year.” NFL investigators for years “have worked with local and federal authorities to crack down on sales of counterfeit merchandise at the street level and in stores.” Teams nowadays are “grappling with the proliferation of rogue websites that promote themselves as an ‘official store’ and lure unsuspecting consumers with their polished looks.” The NFL is “pursuing many China-based operators who target unsuspecting NFL fans with websites that sell unlicensed merchandise.” NFL VP/Legal Affairs Anastasia Danias said, "If you're buying merchandise from a China-based website, you're probably not getting the real thing.” Sentementes reports even as the league “works to shut down these websites through the courts, more pop up to take their place.” In the past, NFL investigators have “cruised the streets in league cities with law enforcement officials looking to catch sellers of products that infringe on the league's many trademarks.” Now NFL investigators are also “tracking websites, ordering knockoff jerseys as part of ‘evidentiary buys,’ and working with courts and federal authorities to shut sites down.” As the Ravens prepare for Sunday's game against the Texans, league officials said that they “will have a team of investigators in the Baltimore area doing the same type of surveillance” (Baltimore SUN, 1/12).
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