WWE & Amazon file joint lawsuits against 13 defendants who attempted to sell inauthentic WWE Title belts

Originally published at WWE & Amazon file joint lawsuits against 13 defendants who attempted to sell inauthentic WWE Title belts

Lawsuits filed by WWE and Amazon.

A press release was issued through WWE’s corporate website that they’ve partnered up with Amazon to file lawsuits against 13 defendants. Those individuals attempted to sell inauthentic replicas of WWE Title belts on the Amazon Store.

WWE is working with Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes unit to pursue the lawsuits. One of the defendants was operating their business out of New Jersey. WWE got in touch with the Middlesex County, New Jersey, Prosecutor’s Office to pursue those affiliated.

Below is the complete press release:

Amazon teams up with WWE, filing suit to protect customers
and the authenticity of WWE’s historic championship title belts

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) (NYSE: WWE) and Amazon today announced joint lawsuits against 13 defendants who attempted to market and sell inauthentic replicas of WWE-branded championship title belts in Amazon’s store including inauthentic replicas of commemorative title belts as well as the historic WWE World Heavyweight, Universal, Intercontinental, United States and NXT Championship title belt designs.

WWE combined its proactive IP monitoring and enforcement program with Amazon’s Project Zero and Brand Registry protection tools to detect infringing listings, and Amazon removed them. Then WWE partnered with Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit to pursue these lawsuits targeting bad actors who attempted to sell counterfeit products and falsely represent their locations and identities.

One of the defendants was found to be operating their fraudulent business out of New Jersey. In addition to the civil lawsuits, Amazon and WWE worked with the Middlesex County, New Jersey, Prosecutor’s Office to pursue these bad actors which led to felony counterfeiting charges against two connected individuals for sale of counterfeit WWE championship title belts.

“Amazon is the benchmark for collaboration with respect to brand infringement online,” said Vice President of Intellectual Property at WWE, Matthew Winterroth. “Official and licensed WWE products, branded by our IP, are trusted by our fans around the world and we go to great lengths to protect consumers from counterfeits and other types of infringements. It’s our hope that other companies look at Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit as a model of how to partner with companies of any size to help combat this relentless threat.”

“Amazon is committed to the authenticity of products in our store and protecting our customers from all forms of counterfeits, including those impacting fans of iconic entertainment brand WWE,” said Kebharu Smith, director of Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit. “We will continue to work with WWE and Middlesex County law enforcement to bring these bad actors to justice.”

WWE’s robust and aggressive IP enforcement program utilizes both internal and external resources to combat counterfeit and infringing products, piracy, and distribution abuse online as well as in physical points of sale. This includes trained internal staff and third-party vendors who consistently monitor online retailers around the world for IP infringements and counterfeit sellers. Amazon’s Project Zero also empowers WWE to directly remove suspicious listings from Amazon’s stores. Amazon’s latest lawsuit with WWE comes after Amazon in 2021 sued or referred over 600 criminals for investigation in the US, UK, EU, and China, an increase of more than 300% over 2020.

Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit – a team of former federal prosecutors, former law enforcement agents, experienced investigators and data analysts – was formed to work with brands and law enforcement to hold bad actors accountable.

Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products, and won’t stop until there are zero counterfeits in its stores. Amazon’s efforts to stop counterfeit products is part of an investment of $900 million to protect its stores from fraud, counterfeits, and abuse. This includes using industry-leading tools to verify potential sellers’ identities and ensure product listings are authentic. In 2021, Amazon blocked more than 4 billion bad listings before they were listed in our stores. These listings were suspected of potentially being fraudulent, infringing, counterfeit, or engaging in other forms of abuse.

The court filings are available here:

Case numbers:
2-22-cv-01205
2-22-cv-01209
2-22-cv-01211
2-22-cv-01214
2-22-cv-01216
2-22-cv-01207
2-22-cv-01212
2-22-cv-01210
2-22-cv-01215

Over the past several months, there were a handful of law firms that launched investigations into WWE as former Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon was being investigated by the Board of Directors.

Not the WWE/Amazon partnership people were expecting!

1 Like

Imagine being upset enough to file a lawsuit to prevent the sale of replica title bets which helps make your company more popular, all because you want to gauge consumers a few hundred dollars direct instead. This is the antithesis of cool and consumers should spit in the face of companies that don’t want to be cool.

I am genuinely confused here. WWE are going after people selling counterfeit merchandise. I fail to see how this makes them ‘uncool’. This is exactly what the company should be doing.

1 Like

So companies should let people sell unlicensed merch? How about illegally broadcast and distribute their pay-per-views and TV? Or share network passwords? Or sneak into their live shows?

Nintendo has been relentlessly pursuing copyright and trademark lawsuits against people and businesses for well over 30 years now and I think the general consensus is still that Nintendo is pretty cool.

Corporations like Nintendo and WWE get a pass for this sort of thing where individual artists and creators do not. This is one advantage of being an artist on a “major label” or brand. If some young rapper went around claiming and striking content on YouTube or social media they would face backlash from their fans; when Universal Music Group does the same thing, it’s just business.

The obvious example of something like this blowing up in their face would be Metallica’s lawsuits against Napster and the other MP3 sites in the early 2000’s. But I think in order to get held to that high moral standard, you have to have some sort of integrity to begin with, which WWE does not.

It’s already happening. Remember when it was a joke about UFC cutting down on illegal streaming?
There is always a portion of the marketplace that will be lost to bootlegging in Entertainment. T Shirts sold outside concerts. Tapes and CDs in the 90s/2000s.

We’re not talking about $20 T shirts that go to talent. We’re talking about $200+ title belt that you can google any custom belt maker online and have them create you one. I’d like to learn more about what they are defining as counterfeit. It must have the logo on it if WWE cares that much.

Still, I stand by my comment that a multi-billion dollar company should be caring that some people are creating custom belts that only enhance the popularity of Wrestling, instead of being litigious about an alternative. It comes across as them wanting consumers to be forced to spend the $100s on their product only.

I wonder if WWE offers financing on purchases of their $300+ WWE title Belts. I guess the lower end consumer can get the Mini Replica(s) as a cheaper alternative when the bootlegs go away.

Stupid and uncool in my opinion. But if that is what’s going to drive revenue or furnish their new HQ, sure go for it.

For the example of @McGuire72 - I am speaking specifically of Replica Title Belts. My view of it would be entirely different if we were discussing core merch like T Shirts or their Video Games. In the case of Nintendo or IP owners, that is their core product. Sure, it’s comparable, but I think it’s apples and oranges in the example of Replica Titles.

The Metallica example is interesting because in hindsight and with the benefit of some age and wisdom I can now say Metallica was totally right!

I am a big Metallica fan and stayed a fan even in the early 2000’s. But at the time this was definitely “uncool”. And it turned off many of their fans forever. Other bands like Limp Bizkit certainly used it to try to make theme selves seem cooler or have an edge.

But 20 years later now that we have a much better understanding of the economics of the internet and what’s legal file sharing and what’s stealing it’s obvious that we were all just stealing using Napster. It was wrong. It was robbing artists. And the industry adjusted and we are in a much better place with being able to get as much music as we want for very affordable prices.

…And it’s still robbing artists. Just consumers pay a subscription fee to their platform of choice to do it with an auro of entitlement only the internet consumer could possibly have. Myself included.

I always wonder what telling kids that we used to pay $20 for a CD with 13 songs would be like by 2050.

2 Likes

So if someone bootlegs a $40 t-shirt or a $60 video game, WWE should go after the counterfeiter, but because it is a $300 replica title they should look the other way? I’m sorry, but I cannot understand that logic.

  1. A t shirt usually features an actual person which is likeness so it impacts multiple people
  2. A video game is actual product by studios and engineers and features IP and likeness
  3. A replica title possesses zero proprietary IP or likeness. Putting the WWE title on it I guess makes it copyright infringement.

I clearly have an unpopular opinion that WWE teaming up with Amazon to stop the sale of knockoff replica wrestling belts is not the coolest thing WWE has tried to do. But I guess others see it as important or worthwhile of the company. Just strikes me as a weird product to partner with Amazon on when a dozen in places to get non-wwe championship belts exist.

Edit: If they are doing it because they may lose licensing opportunities to create such toy versions of the product then I actually disagree with myself entirely. I really looked at it as the ones they advertise avail on Shop dot com. Maybe from licensing there is a bigger problem for toy manufacturers

@MJfromNJ I totally get your point but sadly that is not how this works.

The more interesting part for me will be to see if this is something the new regime is actively pursuing and would it affect my YouTube viewing. WWE is generally very lenient when it comes to distribution of their content on YouTube. This is in stark contrast to something like the Premier League who are absolutely ruthless about their content.

So personally, I don’t care much about merch. But I do hope that they leave the YouTube content alone.

1 Like

It’s also possible that Amazon is driving this ship, to an extent. I don’t know how it goes in practice, but they talk a pretty big game about cracking down on unlicensed merchandise.

To me, if you want to sell illegal merch, I think it’s fair that you don’t get to use Amazon. If you want to be an outlaw, you have to be an outlaw.

Amazon IS driving some of this and you see their programs launched to tackle it in response to anti competitive claims by regulators and the public at large. Add it to the reasons I don’t think WWE is cool for lending their brand to Amazon’s playcating regulators. Amazon doesn’t care if they sell real or fake goods as long as they get the transaction fees. Always been the case which is why they promote and demote certain brands in the general search’s. So this of all things for WWE to issue a corpo press release was :roll_eyes:

As for the content stuff @evan0465 now Thats core product and something the bank their entire revenue model on. Selling those rights and AVOD. So yeah if you think it’s cool that they go after bootlegging be careful when that means coming after the ways a lot of people consume content, including GIFs online which they don’t get royalties on (but probably should).

I responded in jest as I did because of all products and revenue streams in the WWE this one felt like the one that completely misses the mark for consumer AND fans AND wwe all the way around.