On February 3rd, 2017, two days prior to our amazing Superbowl comeback we had something wild happen at our office that we believe was an incredible abuse of power involving the charge that we had been creating "counterfeit" Do Your Job T-shirts. We feel it is important to present the facts of this circumstance to our customers and to the public:
Chowdaheadz created & sold the first Do Your Job merchandise in September of 2011. When we first created these shirts we did a thorough search online and with the USPTO (US Patent & Trademark Office) to be sure there was not any existing use or trademark claim to this mark. This fact can be proven easily with sales receipts, website history, and other supporting documentation. Our tees proudly displayed the Chowdaheadz logo within the design, inside the neck label, and simply read "Do Your Job", it had no other logos and we represented it as a product of Chowdaheadz. Trademark law is govered by "first use" and not "first to file", Chowdaheadz was the original creator of the Do Your Job T-shirt and accompanying merchandise. The facts on this are indisputable, easily proven, and any claim otherwise will result in our assertion to this mark. Trademark laws have a lot of factors and can be quite complicated, they are governed by the United States Trademark Office (USPTO) and Federal civil courts, not criminal. In addition Trademark law is a conflict of marks used on packaging, inner labels and as a source identifier. Using registered trademark in an expressive form, ornamentaly on t-shirts does not directly constitute trademark infringement.
Almost six years after we created and were selling Do Your Job t-shirts we were diligently working for our customers the Friday prior to the Superbowl when police cars sped into our parking lot and marched into our office holding up a warrant to seize our Chowdaheadz branded "Do Your Job" merchandise. Approximately 14 individuals were part of this "raid", including Private investigator Andrea Powers, Private Investigator Michael Surette, 5 members of there staff, Detective Gary Hayward of the Topsfield Police, a Homeland Security rep., and members of the Woburn Police led by Detective James Flynn.
They made the claim that we were "counterfeiting" Do Your Job T-Shirts. Yes, the same t-shirts that we created first and had been selling for almost six years. They seized our Do Your Job merchandise and charged CEO Ryan Gormady with "Criminal Counterfeiting", a charge that can bring up to 10 years in prison. Trademark disputes are a civil matter, not a criminal one so this action was incredibly concerning to us. Counterfeiting involves an intent to pass off goods as that of another company. For example, selling a fake "Coach" bag and intentionally telling a customer it is "Coach" brand. In this case, the customer is harmed and the seller acted with criminal intent to deceive. The parties involved here knew we were not passing the goods off as anything but our own brand, this is proven very easily by examining the merchandise and seeing our logo in multiple locations.
We believe this counterfeit claim was absurd and an incredible abuse of power, lacking any basis in law and fact. This was proven when these charges were never even formally arraigned and were fully dismissed. We feel these charges were spearheaded by some of the parties involved for their own financial benefit, as they of course were being compensated for their efforts. We believe those initiating this action knew that no actual crime had been committed, they simply wanted to remove our merchandise from the marketplace for their own personal gain and intentionally misused civil trademark law as a scare tactic. We believe this act was a form of corporate terrorism against a small business by a competitor. We believe there is an orchestrated scheme involving some of these parties for their own financial benefit and their actions should be examined.
As always, Chowdaheadz is open for business & will not be waiver from our goal, to create unique lifestyle products for those that love New England under our own brand name.
P.S. If you have any questions or comments about this story please connect with us.
We have been made aware that similar actions have been taken against other companies in Massachusetts as well involving the same private investigator firm, the Topsfield Police and other parties. The charges against these companies were also dismissed. A District Court Judge issued a statement questioning the constitutionality of the actions & the applied statute. We believe the parties initiating the charges that sparks these raids are a rogue group, benefiting financially and should be investigated and held accountable.
To put this into further context, a private investigator firm run by a woman named Andrea Powers has partnered with the Topsfield Police Department, and an individual at Homeland Security to raid competitors businesses with bogus counterfeiting claims, seeming to remove competition from the marketplace. (*Note: We are in Woburn, 30 minutes from Topsfield, we do not conduct localized business in Topsfield, and Chowdaheadz owner has not been to Topsfield in 20+ years). We believe they are aware of their misuse of the law and have created a collective scheme for personal gain. We believe we have evidence to prove that this was done with malicious intent, under false pretenses, and done specifically as an anti-competitive action by some of the parties involved. We feel there are potentially criminal implications to these abusive actions and further actions by these individuals will result in civil action and a petition to the state licensing board to terminate their private investigator licenses, and to initiate an investigating into their tactics.
Along with our legal team, many concerned citizens/customers, and a few state agencies we are monitoring any further action and escalation involving the parties involved. We have compiled our evidence and are prepared to present to the Attorney General, The Federal Trade Commission, to the appropriate licensing boards & to the news media as needed. We have significant evidence of what we feel is wrongdoing and deceit by some of the parties involved and we will post that information as compelled. If you have a similar situation involving Andrea Powers, Michael Surette, another Massachusetts Private Investigator, the Topsfield Police Department, or have been subjected to a similar abuse of power regarding MGL C. 266 147 please contact us.
Chowdaheadz owner Ryan Gormady and others are continuing to monitor the parties involved in this scheme and will publish any updates to this story including dissemination of this story to the news media to expose those involved.
Ryan is an active member of a group called the Trademark Watchdawgs, who's mission is to prevent trademark abuse and to assist the USPTO with reform of existing trademark laws. The group now has approx 12,000 members including 100's of attorney's and vigilant members who are helping to monitor and identify companies that are filing fraudulent trademarks and abusing trademark law.