The World Series is upon us, and in a week or so the winner will be reward not just with a trophy, but millions of dollars in proceeds from the sale of championship merchandise.
However, that's only half the story. Every year teams in contention for the playoffs and the World Series prepare thousands of shirts, hats and other items in anticipation of victories that never occur.
Major League Baseball used to require the losers to destroy these erroneous goods. This year, though, the League has announced that it will expand its charitable giving alliance with World Vision by clothing the needy in unsalable merch branded with the names of losing teams.
Whether it's cruel or kind to deny Cubs fans the chance to buy 2007 National League championship t-shirts is a question we'll leave to sports radio. However, there's also an important legal issue raised by this charitable endeavor, and it flows from the word "expand."
You see, before Major League Baseball decided to give away its unsalable authentic goods, it had a long-established policy of sending seized counterfeits abroad.
World Vision and the U.S. government have both praised the Major League's largesse, particularly for its efforts in Africa. But is this something that African governments truly want? Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania and other African countries have been making headlines with their efforts to curb the importation of pirated goods. Nonetheless, even as these countries are rewriting their laws and boosting their customs budgets, World Vision and other well-intentioned souls have been flooding the continent with counterfeits impounded in the West.
If companies expect African governments to make headway in the fight to stop the flood of imported fakes, perhaps the time has come to do with counterfeits the same thing that baseball umpires do with unruly managers--