from the to-secure-the-nation,-starting-with-the-trademarks dept
The Kansas City Royals' long-delayed return to competitive baseballing coincided with one of the most ridiculous raids ever conducted by the Department of Homeland Security. Birdies, a Kansas City lingerie shop, was "visited" by DHS agents -- working in conjunction with ICE -- who seized a number of panties emblazoned with a handcrafted take on the Royals' logo, along with the phrase "Take the Crown."
The agents performing the raid didn't seem all too enthused about their participation in this panty raid, according to the shop's owner, Peregrine Honig.
She says you could tell “they [DHS agents] felt like they were kicking a puppy.”
Honig also pointed out that many local law enforcement officers had purchased lingerie, including the supposedly-trademark infringing panties, without expressing concerns about IP violations or counterfeited goods.
The printing shop that made the panties for Birdies was also visited by DHS agents, who threatened the owner with six years in prison for "breaking copyright law" unless he consented to a warrantless search.
All of this culminated in plenty of unfavorable press coverage highlighting Homeland Security's panty raid and how much "safer" we all were thanks to its intercession on behalf of the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball.
Aaron Gordon of Vice Sports has acquired DHS communications related to the infamous panty raid via a FOIA request. The internal emails contain an awesome mixture of self-congratulation, defensiveness, and the agency's willingness to go above and beyond to please its "eager" partner in IP enforcement.
On October 16, five days before the raid, an anonymous ICE officer from the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPRC)—in the documents released, names of officers were redacted; an appeal has been filed to release the names of the officers involved—wrote an email with the subject "Op Team Player - world series update," referring to Operation Team Player, ICE's partnership with U.S. professional sports leagues to intercept counterfeit goods, including tickets and merchandise.
The unnamed officer wrote, "They [the Kansas City office] are trying to get their numbers up and will accept any leads for controlled delivery in Kansas or Missouri, even if they do not meet the criteria because the AUSA Prosecutor is eager."
For the want of increased "numbers," the DHS lowered its standards to raid a lingerie shop. That's basically all there is to it. Without the prompting of an "eager" AUSA, this may never have happened.
Within hours of the raid, the story was already spreading across the internet. A blanket statement was composed for handling inquiries from the press: the usual "Go Team IP Enforcement" jingoism that accompanies ICE's sporting event-related raids performed in close partnership with the MLB, NBA, NFL etc. But someone in the email chain knew the usual stuff wasn't going to be nearly as effective in this case.
The headlines at the bottom of the email pretty much say it all. We're going to be all over the news tomorrow for the wrong reasons. We'll obviously try to spin this as an opportunity to discuss IPR, but the panty raid jokes will make it hard.
Apparently, ICE/DHS felt this particular narrative might be beyond its control. So it tried to drag Major League Baseball down with it.
On the same thread, at 9:57 PM, someone wrote, "We need MLB to step forward and throw some support for what we do. Let us get with our MLB contact and we'll be proactive as we can re: media." Someone with the title "Executive Associate Director of Homeland Security Investigations-ICE" replied, "Great idea. Let's move on it."
As Gordon notes, perhaps the hilarious part of the email chain is the agency's severe underestimation of the internet's thirst for stories containing (a) abuse of government power, or (b) women's intimate garments -- especially any combination of (a) and (b) that's capable of composing its own headlines.
[S]omeone else on the same thread exhibited a fundamental misunderstanding of the internet's interest in panty raids by writing, "So far it appears to have just localized press. Hopefully, it won't make it out of the local news bubble."
Well, hope in one hand and hold seized panties in the other, as they say. Still, one agent appeared to believe that the government's panty raid was nothing more than a judicious use of Homeland Security assets and taxpayer dollars.
Excellent work, which speaks for itself!
Sure does. That's why press coverage was unanimously negative. ICE, DHS and an "eager" AUSA joined forces with MLB to generate additional acronyms like "WTF" and "BS." Americans were protected from unauthorized sportsball underwear -- something than can only serve to increase their respect for intellectual property rights... and the sprawling, often-thuggish bureaucracies that enforce them.