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Friday, June 13, 2014
New Trademark Infringement Suit Filed by the Big Four Sports Leagues & Various Major Colleges

The NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB, along with Louisiana State University and the Collegiate Licensing Company (a trademark licensing entity representing 13 major universities) all jointly filed a potentially significant new trademark infringement lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois on Wednesday.  The complaint (available here) alleges that various unnamed foreign companies are infringing the plaintiffs' trademarks by selling unauthorized products over the Internet.

In addition to requesting that the court enjoin the foreign companies from engaging in further trademark infringement, the complaint also requests another interesting form of relief: control of the defendants' offending websites.  Specifically, the leagues and universities are asking the court to issue an order instructing the various Internet domain name registration companies to assign control the offending websites to the plaintiffs, and to further order the major Internet search firms to cease advertising and linking to websites affiliated with the foreign defendants in the future.

The leagues and colleges' request for the court to order that the offending URLs be transferred from the defendants to the plaintiffs is not unprecedented.  Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh received this very type of relief from a federal court in California in a 2009 suit over unauthorized domain name registrations.  If the leagues and colleges can similarly prevail, this legal strategy could provide a valuable precedent for trademark holders to attack infringement by foreign firms in the future. 


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