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December 15, 2015 Vol. 22 No. 70 Back to Bulletin Main Page

Dolores DiBella, NFL: Combating Fakes, Helping INTA to Educate About Brands and Sports

In light of upcoming international sporting events, such as the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, it is estimated that the global sports market will generate up to USD 90.9 billion in revenue by 2017. Given such potential impact on the economy, ensuring brand integrity for sports brands is more critical than ever. Consequently, on March 15 - 16, 2016, INTA will host its Brands and Sports Conference, aimed at educating registrants on ways to maintain brand integrity in the face of widespread media coverage and public scrutiny of athletes and organizations. The conference will be held in New York City and will feature various stakeholders in the sporting industry including brand owners, legal, marketing and communications experts.

As Counsel for the National Football League (NFL), Dolores DiBella is responsible for protecting the intellectual property and brand identity of one of the most popular sports organizations in the world. She is also a Project Team Member for the Brands and Sports conference and will be providing insight on a number of panels during the two-day event. She recently spoke with the INTA Bulletin about some of the ways she works with local and national authorities to protect the NFL brands, including the League’s recent targeted effort with the U.S. National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center to help combat sales of counterfeit NFL merchandise following the last several SUPER BOWL games.

What is your background and what are your current responsibilities?
I am Counsel for the NFL, where I work on intellectual property, rights enforcement, employment and commercial litigation matters for the League and its Member Clubs. Before joining the NFL in early 2012, I was litigation associate for several years at Proskauer Rose LLP, where I specialized in intellectual property, false advertising, and entertainment law, and handled a variety of commercial litigation matters.

What is a typical day like for you?
It’s difficult to describe a typical day because every day I touch on dozens of issues—that keeps it interesting!

How does the NFL work to protect its brand, specifically with respect to curbing sales of counterfeit merchandise?
Counterfeit activity is a crime and an ongoing challenge facing all brand owners. The NFL is vigilant in protecting its fans and business partners, including by working with law enforcement and industry colleagues to combat counterfeiting year-round. The NFL has seen particular anticounterfeiting success in recent years through its collaboration with local, state, federal and foreign law enforcement. The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which operates within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has undertaken targeted efforts to combat the influx and sale of counterfeit merchandise—including in recent years through Operation Team Player, Operation Red Zone, Operation Fake Sweep, and Operation In Our Sites. The NFL also undertakes its own civil enforcement efforts, including through litigation and seizures, to disrupt the sale of counterfeit NFL products both on the ground and online.

What were the results of the most recent Operation?
Last year’s Operation Team Player seized more than 326,147 items of counterfeit sports merchandise worth more than USD 19.5 million. Law enforcement officers made over 52 arrests in relation to Operation Team Player last season.

What would you say to members of the public who might think it’s okay to buy or sell fake merchandise?
The NFL wants to protect fans from being scammed by criminals seeking to profit from the public’s passion for the NFL and its Clubs. The public has come to expect high quality NFL merchandise, and counterfeit activity harms the fans and the legitimate businesses who pay taxes, support the local economy and play by the rules. Protecting consumers and maintaining the NFL’s goodwill is an essential part of our strategy.

Is a similar Operation planned for 2016?
Yes, the NFL is extremely fortunate to have significant law enforcement cooperation in counterfeit enforcement efforts leading to this upcoming SUPER BOWL 50.

Will you be discussing Operation Team Player at the INTA Brands and Sports Conference?
I know there are quite a number of speakers on the agenda who will be giving great perspectives on brand protection and counterfeit enforcement at the INTA Brands and Sports Conference. I’m sure the topic will come up in one of my panels or from one of our many other professional sports league speakers (who are also incredibly active in the brand protection space).

What is your hope for the conference?
The Brands and Sports Conference has a fantastic lineup of speakers from across the sports industry. My hope is that this conference makes frequent future appearances in the INTA rotation.

To register for the Brands and Sports Conference, visit the conference homepage; for more information, contact Dolores Moro, INTA’s Senior Strategist, Education, at

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

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