ABPIA steps up legal fight, takes on CloudFlare

In its most aggressive legal action to date, the ABPIA (American Bridal and Prom Industry Association) has underwritten a potentially landmark lawsuit filed by Maggie Sottero Designs and Mon Cheri Bridals against CloudFlare, Inc., a top hosting and internet security company, for copyright and trademark infringements committed by its clients.

Mon Cheri Bridals, LLC in conjunction with Maggie Sottero Designs, LLC are listed as plaintiffs in an action filed November 7 in Federal Court in central district of California, that asserts that CloudFlare enables counterfeit websites to deceive consumers and violate the copyrights of Mon Cheri Bridals, Maggie Sottero Designs, and other members of the formalwear industry.

Maggie Sottero Designs and Mon Cheri Bridals are listed as primary plaintiffs as each is very aggressive in promptly copyrighting their images with the US Trademark and Copyright office and thus best prepared to take this action at this time.

CloudFlare, a Delaware corporation based in San Francisco, California, offers “one of the world’s largest cloud network platforms,” representing over 10 million domains, serviced by over 155 data centers world wide, as stated on its website.

According to the filing, CloudFlare’s liability arises from its failure to terminate its content delivery services to customers it has reason to know are using those services to infringe on trademarks and copyrights, despite hundreds and repeated “takedown notices” filed with CloudFlare that are consistent with the requirements of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

In one situation alone, as noted in one of the exhibits attached to the filing, Maggie Sottero Designs notified CloudFlare in four different correspondences about a specific infringing domain.

“We have seen far too many counterfeiters using both our copyrighted images (through services like CloudFlare) and getting away with shipping of goods, without paying the duty that we are required to pay to import, into the US and worldwide (and succeeding to a great degree) and skirting the legitimate manufacturers thus impacting their businesses,” explained Tom Manning, president and COO of Maggie Sottero Designs.

The impact on unsuspecting consumers is equally dire, and as an industry, he added, “we need to stand together to stop this, and support the action and efforts as stated in the filing.”

According to the filing, “Plaintiffs, along with other members of the formalwear industry, are the victims of a massive Internet scheme to advertise and sell products using the copyrighted images of their dresses.

“These Internet websites, including ones serviced by CloudFlare which are the subject of this complaint, have manufactured, imported, distributed, offered for sale and sold counterfeit goods, including bridal gowns, social occasion dresses, prom dresses and other formalwear using copyrighted images of Plaintiffs’ dresses, they continue to do so to this day.”

This is the latest action in ABPIA’s five-year battle against off-shore factories producing and marketing counterfeit bridal and formal wear goods to unsuspecting US consumers.

It has successfully prosecuted and secured default and permanent injunctions resulting in the disabling of over 2,500 infringing websites, and the removal of millions of copyright images as it strives to fulfill its purpose…which is to take legal action against the marketing and sale of counterfeit formalwear products; to educate consumers, retailers and members of the formal industry about the harm caused by such products, and to lobby governmental entities to aid in the fight against the marketing and sale of infringing counterfeit products.

Its latest step suggests that the association is taking its fight "up the food chain" by targeting those vendors and suppliers providing support and services to websites it identifies as infringing on trademarks and copyrights while marketing counterfeit goods.

Citing the overall impact of counterfeits to the United States as over $500 billion annually, Steve Lang, president of the ABPIA and Mon Cheri Bridals CEO, suggested that “if the ABPIA is successful, this win will set a precedent that any manufacturer or IP holder in all industries can utilize to prevent illegal use of their assets. This would be a big win for our country, not just our industry.”

In this action, the plaintiffs are requesting actual damages in a sum to be proven at time of trial, in no event less than $1,000,000; statutory damages under the Copyright Act; disgorgement of Defendants’ profits from their infringing activities; costs and attorneys’ fees under the Copyright Act; preliminary and permanent injunctive relief; and such other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate.

For additional details about the ABPIA, visit www.ABPIA.org.

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