Run-DMC sues Amazon, Walmart over trademark violations

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BY SARA MORRISON

Naughty third-party sellers may have gotten Amazon in legal trouble again, as influential rap group Run-DMC has sued the website for $50 million for selling items that violate its trademark.

In a lawsuit filed on Thursday, Run-DMC accused Amazon, Walmart, and Jet (which is owned by Walmart) of selling products made by at least three small companies (Vision World, Infinity Fashion, and SW Global) that infringe on its trademark. A quick glance at Amazon the day after the lawsuit was filed shows “large classic retro square frame RUN DMC clear lens glasses with gold accent” for sale from Vision World Eyewear and “new Run DMC style oversized rectangular hip hop nerdy clear lens glasses with metal horn rim” for sale from MLC Eyewear, which the lawsuit says is operated by SW Global. The lawsuit also lists T-shirts, hats, and patches with the band’s logo or likeness on them or their name featured in the item description.

Run-DMC accuses the defendants of infringing on its trademark and reducing its own value in the marketplace, as well as profiting off of the sale of trademark-violating goods. It says legitimate licensing agreements it has made with companies are worth millions (it cites a $1.6 million shoe deal with Adidas as an example of this).

Amazon, Walmart, and MLC Eyewear did not respond to request for comment; contact information for Vision World and Infinite Fashion could not be found.

Amazon, Walmart, and Jet all have policies their third-party vendors must agree to that prohibit selling items that infringe on trademarks, but the lawsuit shows that they may not be proactively monitoring their sellers well enough, as do similar lawsuits and scandals that have arisen from these third-party sellers. Almost three weeks ago, mugs with offensive terms such as “got Hitler?” and “got retard?” were found for sale on Amazon and Walmart.com through a third-party vendor (they have since been removed) despite policies against selling products with offensive terms.

Amazon is currently embroiled in several lawsuits regarding counterfeit products on its website, suing some third-party sellers and being sued by other trademark holders, such as the makers of the Snuggie, for selling them. Some companies have pulled their products from Amazon altogether, citing the counterfeits sold under their name through third-party sellers that make it almost impossible for the consumer to know if he or she is buying the real thing or not. Other companies, such as Apple, are suing the third-party vendors directly and leaving Amazon out of it.

Run-DMC is asking for $50 million plus attorney’s fees and an injunction preventing all defendants from marketing or selling any Run-DMC items in the future.