Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Officers Crack Down on Counterfeit OKC Thunder Merchandise

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Officers Crack Down on Counterfeit OKC Thunder Merchandise

Article excerpt

The Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team's success has drawn the attention of federal law enforcement officers to local retailers.

Special agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations division this week worked with the Oklahoma City Police Department and representatives from the National Basketball Association to stop several metro area retailers from selling allegedly counterfeit Thunder-related merchandise.

Nearly 60 clothing items were seized from one store, and owners at three other stores voluntarily turned over stock of about 140 articles to NBA representatives, overseen by law enforcement officers. Items seized included women's sweat suits, women's polo shirts, women's T-shirts and children's T-shirts, according to a statement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Officials said the store owners will not be prosecuted, nor has a criminal organization been identified with producing the counterfeit items.

Jake Shelton at Core ExtremeSports said his staff was intimidated into handing over about $2,800 in merchandise without much elaboration in the heat of the moment. They said NBA officials first claimed the right of confiscation, then explained briefly that unless the merchandise was given up voluntarily the store would be sued and likely lose the case anyway, Shelton said.

Terry Watt, an attorney at the Fellers Snider law firm in Oklahoma City, said that in cases of license infringement, it's common for the parties to agree to turn over the items in question and walk away rather than drag out the matter in court. Watt said he could not speak directly to the Thunder merchandise issue. He offered only a general perspective from his specialization in trademark law. His law firm represents Oklahoma State University in trademark protection questions.

"The baseline question is always this: By creating this merchandise, is there an affiliation, sponsorship or endorsement by the team?" Watt said. "The whole function of a trademark is to provide an indication of the source of the goods. If I buy Colgate toothpaste, I expect to get a Colgate product, not Crest or some other brand. …

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