Unauthorized 'Hamilton' Merchandise Sparks Lawsuit

Unauthorized gear from the Broadway hit is diverting profits away from the company licensed to sell merchandise, according to the suit.
Walter McBride/WireImage

As Hamilton continues to sell out shows, the award-winning play is now fighting an unfortunate side effect of its popularity: knockoff merchandise, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in New York federal court.

HamiltonCo, the production entity for Hamilton, is suing SunFrog and GearLaunch for copyright and trademark infringement and dilution, claiming the companies are selling unauthorized merchandise bearing the production's iconic logo. (An example from the suit is below.)

GearLaunch licenses software and manages online stores for its clients, and SunFrog manufactures customized clothing, according to the complaint. The lawsuit claims the companies are exploiting the production's popularity and goodwill to cash in on unauthorized clothing. The only legitimate goods are made by Creative Goods Merchandise, which has an exclusive sub-license to incorporate the Hamilton logo and trademark.

"GearLaunch does not require its collaborators to provide confirming information that a given design, such as those incorporating famous copyrights and trademarks as the Hamilton logo, is being used with the permission of the proprietors of the relevant copyright and/or trademark," writes attorney Mark Lawless in the complaint. "Instead, GearLaunch purports to rely simply upon a warranty by the designers that the designs are not infringing, and GearLaunch purports to have no involvement in the design selection process."

HamiltonCo is seeking disgorgement of defendants' profits or statutory damages and an injunction to keep GearLaunch and SunFrog from making, marketing or selling any merchandise bearing the Hamilton logo.

GearLaunch doesn't comment on pending litigation, but sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement about its policies on Tuesday: “At GearLaunch, our priority is providing services that best support sellers in building successful e-commerce businesses, and as part of that we work hard to ensure our sellers understand that they must respect the intellectual property rights of others. We have robust policies in place to prevent sellers using our platform from violating intellectual property laws. What’s more, we take seriously any violations that do occur by working with sellers to correct issues. For more information regarding our policies, please visit gearlaunch.com/intellectual-property/."