Like Clockwork, ICE Stops Sports Fans From Advertising Their Favorite Teams For Less Than Full Price

from the this-is-so-dumb dept

Two things that happen, like clockwork, every Super Bowl? Bogus completely fabricated claims that sex trafficking increases whereever the Super Bowl is held, and ICE making bullshit seizures of "counterfeit" sporting goods. This year, both Associated Press and the local Miami Herald ran bogus stories claiming that sex trafficking ramps up around the Super Bowl -- a claim that every single year is debunked and unproven. Reason always does a good job debunking those claims. so I'll just point you there for now.

On the "counterfeits" front, we've got a silly press release from ICE and plenty of news sources, like Fox News, gleefully cheering on the fact that fans won't be able to provide free advertising to their favorite sports teams without paying the monopoly price set by the NFL. We've covered just how messed up these ICE raids are in the past, but just as a refresher: it's completely fucked up that it's somehow illegal for people to make or sell unauthorized sports wear.

It used to not be this way. It used to be that if you made your own fan ware, sports teams actually liked the fact that you were advertising their brand to the world for free. And then some trademark lawyers came along and said "hey, but we could sell people the right to advertise our stuff for us" and began going to court to stop people from promoting their teams without first paying. An astounding number of people buy into this ridiculous myth -- but think about it: why should people have to pay monopoly prices to help advertise your sports team? It makes no sense at all.

What makes even less sense is the idea that ICE should be spending any time at all seizing goods that would allow fans to provide free advertising at slightly cheaper prices. How is this in the interest of Immigration & Customs Enforcement? I mean, if it means they're not rounding up and kicking out people who have lived here their whole lives, I guess I'd rather them wasting their time on this, but somehow I get the feeling it's not mutually exclusive. Anyway, the real bullshit here is that ICE -- which does this before every single major sporting event -- actually wants to pretend that it's somehow doing a good thing for the world, rather than doing this because they know every single news org wants some dumb story with a "big sports event" hook, and so they know they'll get press.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced Thursday the seizure of more than 176,000 counterfeit sports-related items, worth an estimated $123 million manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), through a collaborative enforcement operation targeting international shipments of counterfeit merchandise into the United States.

Also, note the $123 million. To their credit, at least the press release admits that that's the MSRP price. That's not the real price by any stretch of the imagination. ICE did not seize $123 million worth of goods. But, of course, the news reports leave out that detail, and just run with the $123 million number.

Even worse, ICE pretends that this is "protecting" fans, rather than actually fucking over the fans:

“Operation Team Player remains one of the most important national initiatives for protecting sports fans from the sale of counterfeit products and counterfeit tickets. The joint efforts of the NFL, the IPR Center, HSI, CBP, and Miami area law enforcement have helped ensure that Super Bowl LIV remains an authentic and outstanding experience for our fans,” said NFL Vice President of Legal Affairs, Dolores DiBella. “The NFL is committed to supporting these anti-counterfeiting and consumer protection measures, and extends its gratitude for the year-round support of law enforcement partners who drove the success of Operation Team Player.”

It's not consumer protection. You're just forcing your fans to pay more to give you advertising. Meanwhile, reports have the NFL making somewhere in the range of $15 billion last year (some say the number is even higher). Why are they having to use your tax dollars to force the prices of their merchandise to be jacked up even more?

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Filed Under: advertising, cbp, counterfeit, ice, licensing, sports, superbowl, trademark
Companies: nfl

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  1. icon
    bhull242 (profile), 4 Feb 2020 @ 6:44am

    Re: Piracy is still piracy

    Piracy is still piracy

    Uhhh… trademark infringement and counterfeiting aren’t piracy. Piracy, when talking about IP, consists solely of copyright infringement, not trademarks or counterfeits.

    Maybe they should just be distributing cracked copies of software instead? Or cracked e-books. Or burn the torrents to Blu-Rays.

    See, that is all (at least arguably) piracy, as that all involves copyright. It’s also completely different from what is described in the article, which is about trademark.

    ICE is the agency that handles IP theft.

    Exactly what falls under the purview of ICE is uncertain, but I do know that few would argue that all “IP theft” is handled by ICE. At most, they are supposed to handle counterfeit goods and goods that infringe upon someone’s trademark, and even then only if the goods physically cross the border of the US. (Though ICE has tried to expand its powers to enforce other things, most believe that anything regarding IP “theft” beyond what I said would clearly fall outside ICE’s authority.) And even there, a lot of people would argue that enforcing trademark should also fall outside ICE’s authority, so this point is debatable even if we restrict it to what’s covered in the article.

    Also, neither copyright infringement, patent infringement, nor trademark infringement are theft. Copying, misrepresentation, and fraud aren’t theft, nor is any form of IP infringement.

    You could try to make a case against it, but it is hardly "free advertising" when the item is pirated.

    Again, this isn’t piracy. At most, it’s trademark infringement. And even piracy can be free advertising, as has been discussed in numerous articles on this site. Same with some cases of trademark infringement. Again, it’s debatable.

    I don't like the NFL, even worse when they try to be Politically Correct.

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about here about them being PC, but then I don’t really follow football.

    This is another aspect (Hollywood is worse - FanFiction is even more crushed - heard of ST:Axanar?).

    “This is another aspect” of what? “This is another aspect” of the NFL you don’t like, or “[t]his is another aspect” of the NFL trying to be PC? Or did you mean something else?

    And while I haven’t heard of ST:Axanar (or at least I don’t recognize the name), I am aware of companies crushing fanfiction. Though, again, that’s primarily about copyright, which is very different from trademark. Honestly, I don’t get why people lump trademarks in with patents and copyrights considering how different they are and the massive differences between the purposes behind them.

    Your complaint is with the NFL calling the police, not the police.

    Again, some would argue that this falls outside of what ICE should be concerned with (drugs, child porn, counterfeit goods (not merely those that infringe upon trademarks), banned weapons like explosives, stuff banned by a court order, immigration, fleeing fugitives, and maybe some other illegal goods, not stuff that is merely unlawful like trademark infringement). That said, the article does also complain about the NFL.

    Maybe everyone should "take a knee" during the national anthem to object to the NFL using ICE to aggressively enforce their Trademark.

    I’m not opposed to some sort of organized protest against the NFL over this, but this is greatly misinterpreting what taking a knee during the national anthem represents; it was intended as a peaceful and silent protest of police violence and discrimination occurring under the same flag while also still respecting the troops. I don’t think that has any real similarities to what’s going on here.

    (They have to at least complain lest they lose the Trademark, like Xerox, Kleenex, Band-Aid, etc.).

    IANAL, but while this is technically true, it can be fulfilled through lawsuits, C&Ds, some publicly made declaration, etc. It also is primarily for unregistered trademarks; registered trademarks are given a lot more leeway with using discretion in enforcement. The cases you reference are a little different in that they involve genericide, which is slightly different from the enforce-it-or-lose-it thing you describe, and it’s highly unlikely to occur with any of the NFL’s trademarks. That’s really only a concern when the trademark is used to refer to a distinct product or invention of some sort, like Velcro or Google. It doesn’t really apply to something like team names or any logos.

    Complain more about the NFL, not ICE.

    As mentioned, they did complain a lot about the NFL, and there is some argument as to whether ICE is actually supposed to enforce trademark at all.

    And get Congress to change the laws back to rationality, instead of what the Disney Deathstar wants to do - extend copyright forever so nothing ever more in the public domain. The problem is Congress.

    Again, I completely agree with you on that, but that has nothing to do with what this article is about, which is trademark. Copyright law and trademark law are completely different beasts. And actually, as written, US trademark law is a lot less problematic (though I do think we should have a similar use-it-or-lose-it requirement to the EU). Some issues come from the USPTO granting dumb or broad trademarks (which isn’t exactly the fault of Congress), companies and individuals overenforcing trademarks (same), ICE enforcing it (same), and the pressure to crack down on anything close to similar (created by how the courts have ruled rather than what Congress enacted).

    In fact, I’m pretty sure that ICE itself was created by an executive order, not an act of Congress, and I’m certain that how they enforce trademarks has nothing to do with any acts of Congress. So yeah, Congress doesn’t really have much to do with these issues, and I don’t know if they could actually do much about them.

    Maybe Schumer and Pelosi should try to fix that instead of the show trials.

    First, I don’t think Schumer has anything to do with the impeachment beyond serving as a member of the jury due to his position as a senator. Everything else has been up to (mostly Democratic) members of the House, Mitch McConnell, the White House’s defense team, the Chief Justice, and the Republicans in the Senate (especially the House, and currently the Republican majority of the Senate).

    Second, the impeachment trial has nothing to do with anything here, so please leave that out of this.

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