Anti-counterfeiting authorities fanned out across Oklahoma City Wednesday and seized contraband NBA apparel from four stores.
The raids by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Oklahoma City police and NBA representatives netted almost 200 clothing items, including sweatsuits, polo shirts and T-shirts.
“We freaked out. I was like, ‘what's going on,'” said Denise Moore, owner of Three Dimension Vision of You, 7000 Crossroads Blvd.
Moore said authorities confiscated four T-shirts bearing Thunder logos that ranged in price from $10 to $15.
“I guess I don't have the copyrights to make them, so they were just doing their job,” Moore said.
Caleb Arter, owner of My Blue Seven at 7518 N May Ave., said he lost about 30 consignment T-shirts that he sold for $30 a piece.
“I don't think they had grounds for it personally,” Arter said of the seizure. “Our purpose is just to be creative, have fun and support our team. Our goal is not to steal someone else's ideas. We're definitely not trying to infringe on other people's logos.”
He said the seized shirts bore the words OKC and Thunder.
“I think that was the issue they had with that particular shirt,” he said. “We weren't jerks to the guys, and they weren't the nicest people. We just wanted them to know we weren't trying to get around the rules. We just want to know what we can and can't do. I'm glad they came.”
The other stores raided were Core Extreme Sports at 10467 N May Ave., and The Market at Quail Springs, 14001 Joel McDonald Drive.
The store owners will not be prosecuted and authorities said there was no indication the seized apparel was the handiwork of a larger criminal organization or counterfeit ring, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman.
“Our … counterfeit enforcement operations with our partners serve a variety of important purposes,” said David M. Marwell, a Homeland Security special agent based in Dallas.
“They help protect American jobs by enforcing trademarks, they protect consumers from inferior merchandise and they prevent funding potential criminal organizations,” he said.
The raids are part of stepped-up enforcement during the NBA playoffs aimed at halting the sale of unauthorized and poorly produced knock-off merchandise.
Since 1993, nearly 10 million pieces of counterfeit merchandise featuring the logos of various professional sports leagues, teams, colleges and universities valued at more than $369 million have been seized as a result of a coalition formed by the various groups to vigorously enforce trademark laws, according to the NBA. Conference finals and championship series are notorious for counterfeiting activity, the league said.
“Discounts and 2-for-1 offers may seem appealing, but you get what you pay for when it comes to counterfeit merchandise,” said Ayala Deutsch, senior vice president and chief intellectual property counsel for the NBA. “A souvenir is worthless if it contains misspelled names and shrinks three sizes after being washed.”
NBA officials say counterfeiting harms legitimate local retailers and cheats fans.
A manufacturer must be licensed by the NBA to sell a product with the league's logos or names on it. Buyers are encouraged to look for a hologram sticker or hangtag or a sewn-in neck label on the product to ensure its authenticity.