'Psst. Want a Cowboys sweatshirt half-price? How about a 49ers cap, cheap?" Only one problem with the goods the shifty-eyed hustler is peddling outside the stadium. The bright team logos may look authentic, but they're knockoffs. So, pro sports leagues are cracking down on the counterfeiters, with dozens arrested in the past year, nearly $4 million in merchandise seized, and more action expected as the National Football League playoffs and the Super Bowl loom.
No wonder teams are mad. Copycatting costs them plenty. By licensing its trademark to outside vendors, a team gets up to 5% of an item's retail price. That's a nice chunk of the $8.4 billion-a-year team-merchandising business. Now, with a Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt going for $30 and a cap for $19, you might say it's smarter to buy cheap fakes. But the teams argue that you get poor-quality fabrics and imprints on bootleg stuff.