Yesterday, Anime News Network reported that Great Eastern filed suit against the Maryland Anime store. The suit, which was filed in Illinois on June 23, names Maryland Anime store, proprietor Amanda Naeemi, VK338 LLC, and 10 unnamed defendants. VK338 LLC was listed as an alternate business name for Maryland Anime on Anime Central’s dealer registration form.
Great Eastern alleges that the defendants engaged in “inter alia, passing off, trademark infringement, false advertising, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices, and consumer fraud.” The ten John Does are employees of Naemi, who allegedly created, sold, and supplied her with counterfeit merchandise.
According to the suit, an Aniplex of America representative noticed that the VK338 LLC booth was selling a Sword Art Online Kirito plushie with Great Eastern’s logo. Unlike the typical Great Eastern product, though, the toy was made of different materials, and contained typographical errors on the tag. In addition, the doll was missing details, and the tag contained a QR Code that redirected to a Chinese website. The defendants were issued a citation by the convention staff, and ordered to stop selling the merchandise, with the penalty for disobeying being immediate ejection from the event without a refund. A staffer working the booth signed the citation, agreeing to comply with the terms.
Great Eastern is requesting a jury trial, and seeks damages, legal fees, all profits gained through the sale of unlawful goods, and the delivery of remaining counterfeit merchandise.
Before we go further, I’d like to say that this is exactly why companies look for bootlegs at conventions. The fact that a vendor would be crazy enough to sell counterfeit merchandise at convention, especially one with an industry presence, is stupid at worst, and careless at the absolute best. Frankly, similar could be said about selling counterfeit merchandise in general, but that’s another story for another day.
Where was I? Oh, right!
The case, if it goes to trial, looks like it will be an open and shut affair. Given that the convention collected a signed citation, Great Eastern has a documented admission of culpability for the sales of such items, in addition witness testimony from Aniplex’s representatives, and any merchandise that may have been confiscated at the event.
How things will proceed, though, will be interesting to see. The trafficking of counterfeit goods carries a felony charge in the United States, which could see up to $2 million in damages and 10 years in prison on a first offense. Should Great Eastern pursue this to the fullest, this could become a very real possibility, depending on just how much counterfeit material Maryland Anime sold over the years.
Of course, it’s also possible this could end in a plea bargain of some sort, where charges are reduced in exchange for a “guilty” or “no contest” plea. It’s a bit early to tell at this point, though I will be watching this case as it unfolds.