Dr. Dre's headphone company sues over trademark infringement

By Rhys Saunders | Sep 23, 2013


A company co-founded by rap mogul Dr. Dre is suing a foreign counterfeiting ring that allegedly sold replicas of its signature headphones online in Illinois.

Dre, whose real name is Andre Young, shot to fame in the 1980s with rap music pioneers NWA, and has enjoyed a solo career marked by albums “The Chronic” and “2001.”

He is the co-founder and owner of Beats Electronics LLC, a sound transmission products company that specializes in celebrity-endorsed headphones.

“Beats Products have also been the subject of extensive unsolicited publicity resulting from their high-quality, innovative designs and renown as desired luxury items,” the lawsuit states. “Because of these and other factors, the Beats name and the Beats Trademarks have become famous throughout the United States.”

Musicians and DJs including will.i.am, Lil Wayne, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Justin Beiber and P.Diddy have all endorsed Beats products or have been associated with the brand, according to the suit that also notes professional athletes LeBron James and Serena Williams have been seen publicly using Beats’ products.

According to Beats, a counterfeiting operation based in China or other foreign countries has created a series of online stores designed to look like Beats’ website, where it uses the “b” trademark logo and other images associated with the electronics giant without its permission.

The goods are often advertised as “replica” or “fake” Beats products and sold to Illinois residents.

Beats asserts the counterfeiters are working in concert as evidenced by similarities in their websites.

“Many of the Defendant Internet Stores have virtually identical layouts, even though different fake aliases were used to register the respective domain names,” the suit states.

It further contends that “Counterfeit Beats Products for sale in the Defendant Internet Stores bear similar irregularities and indicia of being counterfeit to one another, suggesting that the Counterfeit Beats Products were manufactured by and come from a common source and that Defendants are interrelated.”

The counterfeiters, the suit states, also use illegal search engine optimization tactics to increase their websites’ rank.

Beats filed the suit Sept. 19 in Chicago’s federal court, where it asked a judge to grant it all profits from the sale of counterfeit goods.

The suit also asks that the amount of damages for infringement of the Beats trademarks be increased by a sum not exceeding three times the amount thereof as provided by law.

Alternately, Beats seeks $2 million for each illicit use of its trademark and $100,000 per domain name on the fake websites.

Beats' suit includes counts for trademark infringement, false designation of origin and violations of the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The company also requests injunctive relief under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which provides cause of action for registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name that is similar to or dilutive of a trademark.

In addition, Beats’ suit asks the court to force anyone involved in the counterfeiting ring to stop selling fake products, and that online marketplaces, social media platforms and web hosts disable accounts and cease providing service to the counterfeiters.

The headphones company has filed an ex parte motion for entry of a temporary restraining order, domain name transfer order, asset restraining order, expedited discovery order and service of process by email and electronic publication order.

It has also filed a motion requesting the court seal a list of the counterfeiters’ domain names and website links.

Beats is represented by Justin R. Gaudio, Kevin W. Guynn and Amy C. Ziegler of Greer, Burns & Crain Ltd. in Chicago.

The firm represents luxury leather goods company Coach Inc. in a similar suit that accuses a foreign counterfeiting ring of trademark infringement.

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