Firm sues concert bootleggers before they bootleg

Wed Aug 11, 2010 4:14am EDT
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By Eriq Gardner

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Just because the Mile High Music Festival this weekend in Denver hasn't happened yet, and just because the bootleggers haven't yet set up shop, doesn't mean that hundreds of individuals haven't already been sued.

Concert promoter AEG Live has jumped on a growing legal trend in the concert world by filing a trademark infringement claim against hundreds of John Does and Jane Does. According to AEG's new complaint, "only the plaintiff has the right to sell merchandise bearing the Festival Trademarks at and near the Festival."

AEG is asking a federal court in Colorado to order the U.S. Marshal, local and state police, off-duty officers, and AEG agents to seize and impound bootlegged merchandise. The lineup for the two-day event includes Jack Johnson, the Dave Matthews Band and Weezer.

The complaint follows a similar lawsuit filed earlier this summer by Universal Music Group's merchandising division, Bravado International Group, in anticipation of a series of concerts by Lady Gaga at New York's Madison Square Garden. That action opened some eyes in the concert industry, showing other outfits how to use the once-rare John Doe trademark lawsuit to get law enforcement involved.

Now, AEG is hoping to replicate Bravado's success. No damage has yet been done. And any follow-up legal action after the concert is doubtful. But of course, one would hardly expect anybody to show up this week in a Colorado court to contest AEG's lawsuit. A supporting brief filed in the case says that defendants do have that opportunity, although AEG submits that "experience shows it is doubtful they will do so."

The brief also says the unnamed defendants "are not neophytes, but rather somewhat sophisticated businessmen who operate in stealth to thwart the legitimate rights of Plaintiff."

Some lawyers defend the action as appropriate. One trademark lawyer pointed out that on the criminal side, courts empower police officers with the discretion to execute temporary remedies. And that in this instance, bootleggers are too nomadic to be served summons.