Sometimes you wake up in the morning thinking: “I’m going to sue somebody today, I just don’t know who.” It is for just this moment that there is a John Doe Order – an ex parte order from a Court allowing a remedy such as seizure, where a specific defendant cannot be identified, and the intellectual property itself might have a limited economic value. A typical fact pattern would arise where the trademark or copyright owner can establish a likelihood of piracy of a short-lived property (such as a logo commemorating a specific Super Bowl or arena concert) at an upcoming event. At the event itself, a marshall can then seize goods falling under the parameters set out in the order. The point is that the Super Bowl or whatever will have come and gone (and the market already destroyed) by the time the IP owner identifies the t-shirt bootlegger, serves papers, has a hearing, etc.
The Anand and Anand firm of India writes to tell me that the practice has reached India. Recently, of India’s 40,000 cable operators, only 3,500 had entered into licenses from the owner of the rights to broadcast in India the Soccer World Cup. Given the transitory nature of both the World Cup rights and the cable operators themselves (and the normal timeframe of the Indian courts), the Delhi High Court granted a order against anonymous defendants whereby the rights owner, accompanied by a court-appointed commissioner, was able to locate the unlicensed cable operators and shut down the unauthorized World Cup transmissions.
In India, they call this an Ashok Kumar Order.