Market vendors outraged about legal action Hard Rock Café

POSTED: 03/18/11 2:08 PM

Company wants information about counterfeit suppliers

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – Vendors on the market behind the courthouse are upset about the initiative by Hard Rock Limited to drag them into court on June 14th over copyright violations. Eleven vendors have been named in the decree. In October of last year twelve caps and ten hats with counterfeit Hard Rock Café logos were confiscated on the market. Since then, vendors say, they have stopped selling Hard Rock Café merchandise.

Hard Rock Limited, an offshore company established in the British Channel Islands, opened a Hard Rock Café franchise on the Boardwalk in St. Maarten last week Wednesday. The Hard Rock brand has been registered with the Bureau for Intellectual Property of the Netherlands Antilles for more than twenty years – since June 9, 1988.

The company went after counterfeit merchandise last year; this resulted in the confiscation of twelve caps and ten hats with the Hard Rock logo. Now the market vendors who operate behind the courthouse and market vendors who ply their trade on Front Street on a lot next to the Little Steps store are facing legal action.

The plaintiff demands that the vendors reveal everything they know about the origin of the illegal merchandise. Furthermore, the company wants a ban on the sale of Hard Rock Café merchandise by the market vendors. Thirdly, it demands that vendors surrender within eight days after the court ruling all merchandise with the Hard Rock logo they still have in their possession and that these goods will be destroyed. For not complying with any of the demands, Hard Rock demands a penalty of $1,000 per day.

A letter from the Island Territory of St. Maarten produced by the plaintiff shows that the market vendors operating on Front Street 99 next to Little Steps are illegal. “The market terrain on front street 99 was not designated as a market. The merchants there are not registered with Vosec (the inspection department – ed.) and they have no permits,” the letter states.

Ingrid, one of the vendors with a stall behind the courthouse is outraged about the upcoming court case and the demands. “I have been doing this for twenty five years. I have been selling Hard Rock café shorts all those years. They established themselves on the island a month ago and now they want to kill us. Why fight us now?”

Ingrid does not intend to give any information about the origin of the Hard Rock merchandise – though after the control in October all vendors stopped selling the counterfeits. “We are not involved in criminal activities. It is up to them to do their investigation and to find out who prints this stuff. They should not squeeze the small people. We are not informers.”

Ingrid and the other market vendors received their summons to appear in court yesterday morning. Because the document is written in Dutch, most vendors are unable to understand its content.

“They opened their place last week and they don’t want us to sell merchandise with their logo anymore. That’s fine,” Ingrid says. “We are not selling it anymore. But why don’t they go after the people who are selling this to us?”

The vendor suggests that local businesses get some time to sell whatever they have in stock, instead of surrendering it for destruction. “We have already sold what we had after October,” she says. “And print this: the lawyer is not doing her job properly, because there is not one table here with Hard Rock Café articles. We are going to fight them.”

A tour around the stalls confirms Ingrid’s words. There is not a single Hard Rock item on the shelves on the market. The illegal market in Front Street offers the same picture: there is not a single Hard Rock item to be found. Instead, the vendors now offer Lacoste polo shirts in abundance.

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