The American Legion emblem is the property of The American Legion National Headquarters, protected by federal statutes and trademark and copyright law. Online shoppers need to know that products they see displaying it and other American Legion Family brands on such e-commerce sites like Amazon.com and Wish.com are almost always illegally marketed.
These products are almost all counterfeits, often made in foreign countries, and they violate U.S. copyright and trademark laws. When people buy these unauthorized American Legion products the resources needed for The American Legion to assist disabled veterans, operate youth-development programs and advocate for our nation’s military personnel are lost.
The best, and often only legal, resource to purchase American Legion-branded merchandise properly displaying the emblems, or names, of American Legion Family organizations – including the American Legion Auxiliary, Sons of The American Legion and American Legion Riders – is American Legion Emblem Sales at emblem.legion.org.
In February 2021 alone, The American Legion National Judge Advocate’s office handled no less than 400 separate trademark violations from manufacturers and vendors that stole our name and/or copyright-protected emblem for profit.
Violators – sometimes from countries that have taken up arms against our brave servicemembers – capitalize and profit from exploiting “loopholes” in U.S. law to sell illegally obtained materials on websites like Amazon.com and Wish.com. These illegal transactions have substantially harmed Emblem Sales revenue, which is used to offset such costs as free representation for disabled veterans in their battles to receive health-care benefits.
After more than a year of collaboration, it appears that Amazon has implemented internal standards that have now removed almost all infringing products. We will work with them closely to make sure that these infringing products do not reappear on the Amazon platform. Other similar companies like Zazzle.com, Redbubble.com and Spreadshirt.com have cooperated with us in implementing an internal platform policing program to make sure that our emblem and name do not appear on infringing products on their platforms.
Another company, Wish.com, has taken an entirely different approach. Wish.com appears to do little to verify that the intellectual property in on products it sells through its platform is either owned by the manufacturer/seller, or that the seller has any approval or right to use it. Wish.com, taking advantage of loopholes in U.S. intellectual property law, even puts the responsibility back on the owner of the infringed trademark or copyright to ensure that each Wish.com seller is properly using the name or brand. Organizations like The American Legion have to use their own resources to police the website, protect its name and report any violations back to Wish.com, which may then take the product down. But for each sale of such illegal merchandise already conducted, Wish.com, and other companies like them, takes its own percentage of the transaction, creating a counter-incentive for the company to remove illegally marketed merchandise.
Following notice in writing concerning the federal statutes and intellectual property laws that protect The American Legion name and emblem, Wish.com, through its expensive lawyers, has essentially told the American Legion that it will take no internal action to police its own marketplace, and that the American Legion must send a takedown notice for each of the hundreds of apparently infringing products that appear on the Wish.com platform. Think about that for a moment ... they know that the items bear the American Legion name and emblem, have been told that no one other than The American Legion has the right to sell such products, and they are leaving them up for sale unless The American Legion writes hundreds of individual takedown letters to Wish.com.
What makes this even more egregious is that the U.S. Congress, which granted sole ownership and usage rights of American Legion Family emblems and names to The American Legion National Headquarters, even went so far as to pass a federal criminal statute punishing the unauthorized manufacture, reproduction or sale of products bearing the name and emblems belonging to federally chartered veterans service organizations, such as The American Legion. Enforcement of that criminal statute when it comes to companies like Wish.com will be an interesting avenue we will explore.
Companies like Wish.com largely refuse to even provide contact information for the illegal sellers, making it impossible for The American Legion to even recoup legal expenses through litigation. As an article in the National Law Review noted last year, “many sellers of counterfeit goods are located overseas, putting them outside the jurisdiction of U.S. criminal law or civil liability. In addition, simply requiring e-commerce sites to remove counterfeit items or ban counterfeit sellers hasn’t been particularly effective, as sellers simply shift these items to other accounts. Like the mythical Hydra, cut down one online counterfeit account, and two more rise to take its place.”
So, what can you do to help us defend this attack on the American Legion Family’s names and emblems? The main thing you can do is buy American Legion items only from Emblem Sales, not these other unauthorized e-commerce sites that allow illegal manufacturers to profit from our copyrighted marks. A look at the counterfeiters from the months of October and November 2020 revealed that nearly every violator of American Legion Family trademarks and copyrights was operating from China.
Instead of sending your hard-earned money overseas, or to companies like Wish.com, which profit on counterfeit transactions, make purchases directly through The American Legion and Emblem Sales, so we can continue to provide all the programs we have worked for over a century to offer to our nation’s veterans, children, military personnel and communities worldwide. Only a few carefully vetted and authorized licensees are allowed to sell American Legion Family-branded products.
Secondly, contact your congressional delegations and tell them to put a stop to counterfeiting and intellectual property theft like this. In the last Congress, a bill was introduced to combat this menace. The “Stopping Harmful Offers on Platforms by Screening Against Fakes in E-Commerce (SHOP SAFE) Act” would have required online sales platforms like Wish.com to verify the identities of the sellers and screen for trademark infringements. The measure has not yet been introduced in the 117th Congress, so urge your lawmakers to introduce, sponsor or cosponsor similar legislation.
Lastly, if you come across goods online that display American Legion Family names or logos, and you are not sure if they are legitimate, review this list of authorized licensees to make sure the seller is authorized to sell such merchandise before you make any purchases, emblem.legion.org/approved_licensees.asp.
The American Legion emblem – and all trademarked brands of the American Legion Family – are sacred to the organization. Their designs have meaning to those of us who swore with our lives to defend this nation and to families who believe and trust in our good names. But, when it comes to an e-commerce company like Wish.com, or the many heads of the Hydra that grow back after one is cut off, we are outnumbered in this battle and can only defend ourselves with help from you, in your buying decisions.