Last year, at WrestleMania 29 in East Rutherford, NJ, WWE officials laid the smackdown on the bootleggers in town selling counterfeit WWE merchandise. Indeed, they turned up unannounced at last year WrestleCon with a legal order to confiscate any bootleg material on site from rogue vendors who defied the organizer's (Highspots.com) request to refrain from such illegal activity at their event. It wasn't a fruitless exercise, as WWE busted a few bad apples trying to profit off their copyright and stopped them in the act.
Unsurprisingly, The Hollywood Reporter today revealed, that WWE had attempted to acquire similar powers this year by filing a preemptive lawsuit on March 26th against various anonymous defendants charged in advance with bootlegging unauthorized merchandise inside a five mile radius of the site of WrestleMania 30, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA.
However, in an unusual ruling, U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan ruled against WWE's motion, due to their failure to name or provide any other identifying information about the defendants:
"The problem with Plaintiff’s request is apparent once one recalls that the order it requests is not directed against a single named, identified, or even described person—all the defendants are John Does, and Plaintiff provides no particular information about the identity of any of them. At best, Plaintiff defines Defendants almost tautologically: Defendants are anyone who would be a proper defendant within broad geographic and temporal limits."
That's not to say the judge wasn't sympathetic to WWE's plight, just that she had legal qualms with their proposed solution of "seize what goods Plaintiff decides are counterfeit from what persons Plaintiff thinks should merit a seizure order", asking:
"Does due process allow the Court to deputize a plaintiff to determine which goods are seizable, all while cloaking Plaintiff in the protection of a judicial order?"
What that means is that WWE didn't get approved their seizure order and they're unlikely to get it before WrestleMania 30 begins, as Judge Berrigan has certified that her order be given an interlocutory appeal at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to address the WWE's request, which means that this case may drag on for weeks.
The judge also denied WWE's motion to seal the proceeding, so all in all it was a terrible day at the office for WWE's lawyers.
Yesterday, WWE filed a motion for reconsideration, given that time is rapidly running out on them, which one would expect to be unsuccessful. They also issued the following statement to The Hollywood Reporter:
"It is customary practice for all touring shows to ask for a temporary restraining order to prevent their fans from being sold counterfeit, inferior goods. Merchandise sales are important to the promoter, as well as to the arena or the stadium in which they play. Sales of legitimate merchandise generate revenue for the promoter, the arena and to the local municipality. This is the first time that WWE has experienced a negative decision for a temporary restraining order by a federal judge. Caveat emptor!"
This should be less of an issue next year, as apparently WWE has been largely successful in blocking independent promoters from hiring buildings anywhere near Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, the location of WrestleMania 31.