On October 7, the University of Alabama, Major League Baseball, the University of Oklahoma, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the Collegiate Licensing Company brought a lawsuit against a number of websites that allegedly sold counterfeit goods (legal translation: goods using the plaintiffs' trademarks without plaintiffs' permission).
The leagues and colleges moved quickly and received a temporary restraining order against the defendants a couple of days later. Unfortunately for us gapers, the temporary restraining order was sealed. So while it "did something to the defendants" we weren't sure at the time "what was done."
Also, the defendants' identities were sealed, so we didn't even know to "whom" the "whatever was done" was done.
Well, the confusion is about to be put to rest because the temporary restraining order was just unsealed and it reveals the massive size of this case.
There are 893 defendant websites. Sure, the Internet is big, but, after this order, it is a little bit smaller.
The temporary restraining order is in effect until October 23, and, in the relevant parts, 1) prevents all of the defendant websites from using any of the plaintiffs' trademarks or selling any goods with those marks and 2) orders "those in privity with Defendants…including any online marketplaces such as iOffer, social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter, Internet search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo, web hosts, domain name registrars and domain name registries" to immediately disable defendants' services involved in infringing actions and to prevent all advertising.
Just to reiterate the size of this case, it's the MLB, NHL, NBA and CLC versus 893 websites. And in the temporary restraining the order, the judge in essence shuts down those 893 websites and then tells Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, Bing and Yahoo what to do.
It's going to be hard to find a more expansive case than this one.
While a lot has already happened in this case, the defendants still have yet to make their appearances or state their positions. Quite a few (if not most) of the defendants probably won't ever show up, but it'll be interesting to see if the dragnet cast by the plaintiffs was too broad and pulled in some potential innocent parties.
Until then, this case shows just how powerful trademarks can be and, of course, how important they are to professional and collegiate sports.
For those interested, here's the temporary restraining order. And just in case you recently ordered a jersey and want to know if your order is going to be fulfilled, be sure to check out Appendix A for a list of the defendant websites.
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