Retailers Call Bootlegging Major Problem

OCEAN CITY — Some
Boardwalk retailers think that bootlegging is a far more of a rampant problem
than laser pointers, salvia and K-2 put together.

After Coach Inc. and
Coach Services Inc. filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against 13 Boardwalk
stores for allegedly bootlegging their copyrighted handbags, dresses and other
assorted goods this month, a longstanding problem or dirty little secret
amongst retailers on Ocean City’s most heralded landmark is coming back to the
surface.

“It’s like glorified
street vendors up there selling blatantly counterfeit products of copyrighted
and trademarked companies and logos,” said Dimensions owner Dan Trioana. “The
only difference between some of those retailers on the Boardwalk and the guys
selling fake watches out of a briefcase or their trench coat is the fact that
they rent store space, and that makes it even worse cause they are representing
this resort by running a business here.”

Malibu’s Surf Shop owner
Lee Gerachis feels the town has turned a blind eye to the rampant bootlegging
of products for years.

“I don’t think they
believe they can really do anything about it because it’s a federal law,” said
Gerachis, “but it’s a huge problem and it always has been. It’s almost
impossible for people to compete with people who are blatantly stealing images,
logos, and breaking the rules. In some cases, they are selling the bootlegged
products for less than we would be able to buy the real thing legitimately at
wholesale value.”

Trioana says he’s seen
things bootlegged on the Boardwalk from fake Nike sneakers to various rip-off
logos like Ultimate Fighting Championship, Ed Hardy and Monster Energy Drink,
for example.

“I know for a fact that
no one has an Ed Hardy account on this Boardwalk,” said Trioana. “I have
legitimate accounts of all my brands in here, and it took me a long time to
secure good quality products for my customers. It’s pretty easy to assume that
if someone is selling hermit crabs, they don’t have an Ed Hardy account, and
any shirt they have is a blatant ripoff.”

A poll of more than a
dozen Boardwalk stores resulted in a majority of “no comments”, being totally
ignored by the merchants on several other occasions and in five instances,

literally kicking The Dispatch out of their store for simply asking questions.

One Boardwalk
storeowner, who refused to give his name, but did say that he’d been in
business for more than 30 years, argued that seasonal shops were held to a
different standard as everyone else.

“Trademark laws don’t
apply to stores that are only open a few months out of the year,” he said. “We
don’t do stuff like Coach, because Coach doesn’t need us, but the rest is
different for us. It’s a gray area.”

City Solicitor Guy Ayres
said that there is no local law that addresses copyright infringement because
federal law trumps anything done on a local level.

“If a company or owner
of a trademarked logo thought that their property was being bootlegged, they
would have to go the same route that Coach did and file through U.S. District
Court,” said Ayres, “but it is most certainly illegal to sell products bearing
the images of a trademarked company or a copyrighted logo.”

Councilwoman Margaret
Pillas, who also owns a retail store on the Boardwalk, said bootleggers know
exactly what they are doing.

“People who bootleg, I
believe, are very much aware that they are doing just that, and I think it
shows that anywhere you go, there’s always going to be someone that is trying
to take advantage of fair trade,” said Pillas. “We all just want fair trade,
and that’s not what is happening.”

Trioana says he’s been
in contact with a watchdog type group that advises major companies on when
their products are being bootlegged.

“I don’t know how else
to fix it down here, but if you look at the shops in the last 10 years on the
Boardwalk, the people who are trying to run an honest business can’t make it,
and those who are doing all the bootlegging are making all their money and
leaving town after the summer is over. If they didn’t bootleg, those shops
wouldn’t be here, so why are the honest guys the ones who are going under?”

 

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