August 13, 2014 7:04pm PT by Austin Siegemund-Broka
Warner Bros. Sues Online Retailer Over 'Dallas' Merchandise
Warner Bros. is suing an online merchandiser it alleges is mining in its intellectual property.
The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in Florida federal court, claims that SWP Omnimedia is selling unauthorized products linked to the long-running television drama Dallas. Warners produces the series' reboot, which has aired on TNT since 2012, and it distributed the 1978-1991 first incarnation of the drama centered on oil magnate J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) and his family.
It's claiming it owns all rights to the names, logos and other indicia related to the series. This puts it in conflict with the merchandising websites and social media run by Stephen Wesley Phillips and SWP.
Phillips and his company's sites, ewingoil.org, ewingoil.net and ewingglobal.org, sell merchandise related to the show and its characters, products including J.R. Ewing decanters and belt buckles, Ewing Energies hard hats and apparel. They sell through the online retail service Zazzle in addition to their own websites, and they operate Facebook and Twitter profiles to advertise the merchandise.
The studio is suing for trademark infringement, false designation of origin and a violation of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, a law against using domain names confusingly close to trademarked names.
It claims to have requested that the Internet service providers hosting Phillips' websites remove them. The ISPs complied, it alleges, and then Phillips immediately moved his sites to other ISPs, and the current ISP is in the Netherlands and has not cooperated.
The studio seems to have anticipated that strategy, requesting a permanent injunction not just against selling merchandise that displays Warners trademarks, but also against "effecting assignments or transfers, forming new entities or associations, or using any other device for the purpose of circumventing" a court order. It demands that Phillips deliver the existing merchandise for destruction and cease advertising it.
It wants the domain names Phillips uses transferred to its ownership "if the ISP delegates complete control regarding the … domain names to this Court," and it asks to be paid three times the profits the defendants have made selling items that display infringing trademarks, as specified in a federal code.
SWP hasn't yet responded to a request for comment.