Trademark overreach of the day: ICE says "Yankees Suck" infringes

Your tax dollars at work, protecting America from infringing merchandise: I don’t have much brief for protecting counterfeits, but I find it hard to believe this is the best use of public resources: “Gross misspellings of superstars’ names are one of the things that give away the dubious duds. But more sophisticated fakes are indistinguishable from $300 authentic jerseys hanging in the NFL shop set up in the Phoenix Convention Center. And it can be hard to persuade fans that saving several hundred dollars on a set of matching number 12 jerseys for the family is a bad idea.”  The gross misspellings seem unlikely to be confusing, and the “sophisticated fakes” don’t harm consumers (and are probably not confusing either). 

But the real offense comes when we learn that ICE’s resources are also being devoted to suppress critical uses: “The profane debasing of a mascot — and really anything that denigrates a team — is guaranteed to be contraband, said Daniel Modricker, a spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That ‘Yankees Suck’ T-shirt you put on for special occasions? If it uses anything that looks like a team or league logo, it probably constitutes trademark infringement.”

No, it really, really doesn’t.  “Profane debasing”–and when did mascots become sacred?–is not confusing.  I don’t think ICE has authority to seize diluting merchandise, and anyway very few of these will be using the profaned mascots “as a mark,” meaning the dilution exceptions for parody and criticism apply. This is a blatant misunderstanding of the law, being perpetuated by a federal official with only the small reassurance that federal agents won’t come down and rip a previously purchased shirt off your back.

Less annoying, but also sort of funny, is the attempt to answer the question “why are you spending so much time on fake jerseys” by pointing to problems caused by fake cribs and auto parts.  The Superbowl is a good opportunity to highlight the issue!

H/T ST.

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