A Los Angeles T-shirt company sued in federal court for allegedly ripping off images of ventriloquist-comedian Jeff Dunham’s puppet characters said Friday that customers of its print-on-demand online platform created the designs.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles federal court, alleges that Raymond Lei and his company OoShirts marketed, among other items, “overpriced face masks that display a counterfeited image” of Dunham’s crotchety puppet Walter wearing a blue hospital mask.
But in a statement sent to City News Service, a company spokesman said members of the public publish and sell their own designs on its print-on-demand platform TeeChip, where the material at issue originated.
“OoShirts is committed to respecting intellectual property rights,” said Paul Kim, head of marketing for TeeChip. “We prohibit users of our services from designing or selling merchandise that infringes these rights. As a platform for user-generated designs, all of the merchandise at issue was created by users, not by ooShirts. We removed all of the merchandise immediately upon being notified of potential infringement and are screening any new designs that may infringe on Mr. Dunham’s copyrights and trademarks.”
The lawsuit alleges that the use of Dunham’s likeness and characters “has caused significant consumer confusion and led fans (of Dunham) to ask him whether he was improperly trying to profit off of the COVID-19 pandemic by selling these COVID-19 products.”
“This confusion has caused, and continues to cause, great harm to plaintiff’s reputation and brand,” the lawsuit contends.
The suit seeks “substantial” compensatory, punitive and statutory damages along the lines of the $10 million that attorneys contend Dunham has lost due to the alleged infringement.
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