Hey Jude, Stop Selling Counterfeit Beatles Merchandise!

counterfeit Beatles merchandiseBands and singers – it is now more than ever essential to look into trademarks and copyrights for your lyrics, image, and merchandise.

Over the last few decades, more and more lawsuits have been filed against infringers of these such methods of brand protection, and even for the artist who is still struggling to make a name for themselves, it can really make a difference not only for you the artist(s), but for your fans and future supporters to come.

The Popular Influence of The Beatles – Filing Suit

One cannot turn on the radio, watch a film, or read a magazine without stumbling across a mention or song written by The Beatles. Whether you’re seven years old or seventy, chances are you have heard the mumblings of someone singing “Let it Be” or “Here Comes the Sun”. However, these lyrics and songs are not up for grabs. Much of, if not all, of The Beatles’ work is trademarked and can only be used with permission.

Counterfeit Beatles Merchandise

As recently as within this year, “Apple Corps, the owner of the trademarks of the Fab Four, has filed a $100 million lawsuit against 50 online vendors for allegedly selling merchandise with its “Beatles” and “Yellow Submarine” trademarks without permission”[1]. Similarly to other cases such as Chance The Rapper suing for product infringement on his trademarks, Apple Corp is alleging that “The Beatles Marks” are associated with a certain level of quality for their merchandise. In violation of these trademarks, sellers on sites such as Amazon.com and e-bay have been selling counterfeit merchandise resembling the trademarks aforementioned, therefore violating §32 of the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. §1114)[2].

Marks and Symbols – Apple Corp

In the same breath, it is important that The Beatles have established in their court documents that their “marks are symbols of Apple Corps’ quality, reputation (…) qualify as famous marks as that term us used in 15 U.S.C. §1125(c)(1)”[3], and “(these marks) are among the most widely recognized trademarks in the United States, and the trademarks have achieved substantial secondary meaning as identifiers of quality goods”[4]. Because of their immense success and worldwide recognizability, the Beatles Marks have established a pretty concrete pre-defined market for their products; and therefore, any infringing products are taking away from this fact illegally.

Marks and Symbols – Subafilms

In the same filing, in addition to the “Beatles Marks” being protected, “The Yellow Submarine Mark” is being defended as well[5]. A separate entity in the name of Subafilms is the owner of this trademark, and “the Yellow Submarine Mark is used in connection with the manufacture and distribution of quality goods (…)”[6]. In evidence, Subafilms attached the “registration for the Yellow Submarine Mark (…) labeled Composite Exhibit 2”[7]. The filing indicates terms similar to the above claims, such as the expected and established quality of goods provided by the legal products sold by Apple Corps and now Subafilms, and then takes the next step and establishes that the quality of product that the defendant sells and attempts to sell are “of a quality substantially and materially different than that of Plaintiffs’ respective, genuine goods”[8].

Defendants’ Intentions

A next step that the Plaintiff’s (Apple Corps, Subafilms, and attorneys) took, is stating that the defendants “knowingly and intentionally or with reckless disregard or willful blindness to Plaintiffs’ rights”[9] implying that the defendants were notified of their infringement without success. As a result, it is stated that the “defendants’ infringing activities are likely to cause and actually are causing confusion, mistake and deception among members of the trade and the general consuming public as to the origin and quality of defendants’ products by their use of Plaintiffs’ marks”[10]. In doing so, the Plaintiffs define the Defendants’ intentions as deserving of suit.

Next Steps

As follows, Apple Corp and Subafilms as the Plaintiffs have alleged a breach of Common law unfair competition, common law trademark infringement, and asked for damages in the amount of $2,000,000 “from each defendant (…) per each counterfeit trademark used and product sold, as provided by 15 U.S.C.  §1117(c)(2) of the Lanham Act”[11]. This is a substantial amount of damages.

Counterfeit Beatles Merchandise – Conclusion

As a band or artist, it is important to know how to file trademarks and other forms of brand protection. On AmazonSellersLawyer.com, there are many blog posts such as a step-by-step guide on how to trademark, copyright, and patent your work. Even as an up and coming artist, it is extremely essential to make sure you are protected, because infringement has largely become a big issue in the United States on sites such as Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and other websites globally.


[1] https://nypost.com/2018/02/02/beatles-trademark-owner-sues-vendors-for-counterfeit-merch/
[2] Document 1 Case 0:18-cv-60221-RNS, 2/01/2018 (page 14)
[3] Ibid. (page 7)
[4] Ibid. (page 8)
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid. (page 11)
[9] Ibid. (page 12)
[10] Ibid. (page 16)
[11] Ibid (page 20)

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