Renowned track announcer Dave Johnson has sued Amazon for trademark infringement, saying the online retail giant has been selling shirts that use his registered trademark phrase – “and down the stretch they come” – without permission.
The suit, filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, named Amazon, Amazon Digital Services and John and Jane Does 1-10 (the unnamed manufacturers of the shirts), alleging federal trademark infringement and dilution, deceptive acts and violation of New York right or privacy laws.
Johnson, who registered the phrase with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2012, is represented by attorney Andrew Mollica, whose letter to Amazon April 1 seeking a cease and desist and financial compensation went unanswered.
The suit describes the shirts as “tacky, low quality and over-priced” (they retail for $19.99). Amazon's description of the product, according to Exhibit A of the lawsuit, reads: “Horse racing novelty t-shirt shows jockey on racehorse and cool quote. Great gift for horse racing lover.”
Johnson, who has called races at major tracks throughout the U.S. and on radio and television networks, including Triple Crown coverage, began using the phrase in the 1960s. He used it during numerous appearances on “Late Night With David Letterman” and has a long-running weekly horse racing radio show on Sirius/XM called “Down the Stretch.”
“Nonetheless,” the lawsuit states, “decades after Dave Johnson and his use of his trademarked signature phrase became famous throughout the United States and other nations, Defendants — the world's most successful and, lucrative online retailer of products and their principals, in the online retail industry—capitalized on Dave Johnson's celebrity persona, likeness, identity, and his trademarked signature phrase's celebrity and popularity (which are essentially one).”
Other individuals have similarly protected their “trademark” phrases with the U.S. Patent Office, including Michael Buffer (“let's get ready to rumble”), Dick Vitale (“awesome baby”) Harry Caray Ltd. (“holy cow”), and John McEnroe (“you cannot be serious”).
Johnson is seeking destruction of all sold and unsold shirts, along with any digital and print images of same, along with treble damages, court costs and attorney and expert witness fees.
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