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Harry Styles Sues Over Fake Merch On the Internet, Says He Must Protect ‘Unknowing’ Fans

The "As It Was" star is battling counterfeit Harry merchandise by borrowing a legal maneuver used by big retail brands like Nike and Ray-Ban.

Harry Styles is on the legal offensive to combat fake merch on the internet.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Chicago federal court, the pop star sued a number of online sellers for allegedly violating his intellectual property rights by selling counterfeit merchandise to unsuspecting Harry fans.

Arguing that the counterfeiters use misleading tactics to make it “difficult for consumers to distinguish such stores from an authorized retailer,” attorneys for Styles want a judge to issue a sweeping court order that would, among other things, force big web platforms like Amazon and Etsy (who are not named as defendants) to immediately shut down the listings.

“Plaintiff is forced to file this action to combat defendants’ counterfeiting of its registered trademarks, as well as to protect unknowing consumers from purchasing counterfeit products over the Internet,” the star’s lawyers wrote.


In bringing the case, Styles is employing an anti-counterfeiting tactic that’s frequently used by big brands to fight fakes on the internet.

Such cases, filed against huge lists of URLs rather than actual people, allow brands to shut pirate sites down en masse, win court orders to freeze their assets, and continue to kill new sites if they pop up. The lawsuits also usually result in massive monetary judgments against the sellers, but those are typically hard to actually collect from elusive counterfeiters.

Notably, the counterfeiters that Styles is targeting in the lawsuit are not currently disclosed, because such lawsuits are designed to take them by surprise: “If defendants were to learn of these proceedings prematurely, the likely result would be the destruction of relevant documentary evidence and the hiding or transferring of assets to foreign jurisdictions,” the pop star’s lawyers told the judge.

Such lawsuits are more common among big retails brands — Nike, Ray-Ban, Toyota and Tommy Hilfiger have all filed nearly-identical cases in the past two months — but the music industry also regularly uses the same tactic. Nirvana sued nearly 200 sites for selling fake gear in January; a few months later, the late rapper XXXTentacion’s company filed a similar case.

In his lawsuit, Styles claimed the counterfeiters are mostly located in China, or in “other foreign jurisdictions with lax trademark enforcement system.” And he claimed they used sophisticated methods to target fans searching for Harry’s merch while avoiding detection, including “multiple fictitious aliases” and the use of meta tags.

“Tactics used by defendants to conceal their identities and the full scope of their operation make it virtually impossible for plaintiff to learn defendants’ true identities and the exact interworking of their counterfeit network,” the star’s attorneys wrote.