Run-D.M.C. is striking back against retailers using brands and logos without permission.
Branding is an important aspect of any business or promotional venture these days. As dumb as that might sound, protecting a brand can be a serious undertaking for any business. For an artist, it might mean an entire livelihood.
The surviving members of legendary rap group Run-D.M.C. certainly take branding seriously, having carved out an iconic niche in the 80s with their logo and attire, notably glasses and fedoras. But some online retailers — including prominent ones like Walmart and Amazon — have been selling merchandise and marketing products with the Run-D.M.C. name and branding on it without the band’s consent. As a result, the group has filed a lawsuit against those retailers for more than $50 million alleging trademark infringement.
In the lawsuit (filed in New York, according to Billboard), Run-D.M.C. claims that these companies are aiming to “confuse the public as to the source of origin and endorsement of its products.” The A.V. Club did a quick cursory look around Amazon and Jet (owned by Walmart) and found several items that used the group’s name in product descriptions.
But this kind of behavior isn’t necessarily unusual for retailers. Some don’t even target big names and brands. On the Oct. 21 episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, one of the entrepreneurs seeking investment was Sandilake Clothing and during her pitch, creator Melissa Lay mentioned that one of her t-shirt designs was being used by Target without her permission. But Sandilake had unfortunately not copyrighted their designs, so Target was technically never at fault.
Retailing behemoths like Amazon and Walmart more than likely see any potential lawsuits as a drop in the bucket and nothing to worry about. (However, to be fair, Amazon has attempted to crack down on vendors selling counterfeit items on its site.) But Run-D.M.C. is a big enough name that can claim $50 million in damages, which should make an impact on these companies. It will be a shame if this never gets viewed as a big case, but it’s getting attention now and could put retailers in a spot to finally be held responsible for this gross new practice.
Would you have guessed that Run D.M.C. might be the one to bring attention to this issue and possibly an end to it?