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Northwestern University, Duke University and the University of California (UCLA) are among 25 US educational institutions to have sued online retailer GearLaunch for trademark infringement.

The claim was filed on Monday, April 24, at the US District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.

It alleged that GearLaunch an e-commerce website that serves as “a one-stop shop” for businesses looking to design and sell unlicensed, unauthorised apparel bearing the universities’ trademarks and trade dress.

The universities have used word marks, design marks, logos, mascots, and/or trade dress elements to identify and distinguish their goods and services for many years, according to the claim.

Each of the universities has a licensing programme but, according to the claimants, GearLaunch did not ask to license the marks.

“In short, GearLaunch knowingly provides a ready-made platform for widespread trademark infringement and counterfeiting, and its infringing and counterfeit products have been offered … for sale on dozens of websites owned or controlled by … GearLaunch,” said the lawsuit.

The infringing goods sold by GearLaunch are allegedly similar to and compete with goods sold by the universities’ official licensees, and are sold through identical and overlapping channels of trade.

GearLaunch is alleged to have sold t-shirts featuring the logos ‘Blue Devils’ and ‘Bruins’, which are Duke University’s and UCLA’s football teams respectively.

The universities are seeking injunctive relief, an order for GearLaunch to cease selling the goods, destruction of all infringing goods, an account of profits, triple damages, and a jury trial.

In September last year, WIPR reported that motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson had filed a trademark complaint against GearLaunch, claiming that the online retailer had infringed its ‘Willi G. Skull’ logo.


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