Run-DMC Suing Online Retailers, Including Amazon and Walmart, For $50 Million

Image courtesy of run-dmc

Run-DMC might have broken up 14 years ago, but the name and the musical legend live on in the world of licensed, endorsed merchandise. Unfortunately, according to a new lawsuit, the Run-DMC name also lives on in infringing merchandise being sold by major online stores.

Run-DMC co-founder Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels filed suit late Thursday in a New York federal court, NBC News reports. The complaint alleges that Amazon, Walmart, Jet, and others are “advertising, selling, manufacturing, promoting and distributing multiple products” that use the group’s trademarks without permission. The smaller merchants named in the suit are all third-party vendors that use the Amazon Marketplace to reach consumers.

The knockoff clothes and accessories have “diluted” and “harmed” the “extremely valuable” Run-DMC brand, the complaint continues, and the retailers selling the goods have “improperly profited” from those sales.

The legendary hip-hop group was founded in 1981 by McDaniels, Joseph “Run” Simmons, and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell. The trio officially broke up in 2002 after Mizell was shot and killed outside his recording studio.

McDaniels is the plaintiff filing the suit, and he’s not the first to claim that online infringement is rampant. Counterfeit items are a scourge of the modern e-marketplace. When consumers can’t pick up an item and examine it or its packaging closely, it’s even harder to tell the authentic from the fake. And with stores like Amazon and Walmart accepting basically anybody as a third-party merchant, consumers can have a difficult time distinguishing the reputable from the underhanded.

The higher-profile a brand is, the more plentiful its unauthorized copycats. Apple, for example, estimates that 90% of the ‘Apple’ chargers being sold on Amazon are knockoffs — not just infringing but also potentially very unsafe.

The problem has been growing for years, and while Amazon has promised improvements in the new year and tries to respond to customers who’ve purchased fakes or brands that feel they’re being infringed on, clearly Run-DMC feels the company did not act quickly enough in this case — and neither did competitors Walmart or Jet.

Whether fakes are being sold — and whether they’re doing $50 million worth of damage to the existing Run-DMC brand and its official merch deals — will now be sorted out by the court.