The Fashion Law Exclusive - Ahead of this week’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the lingerie giant filed suit against VIP Concierge, Inc., a ticket brokerage company for entertainment, sporting, and fashion events, and its owner, Craig Banaszewski. According to Columbus, Ohio-based Victoria’s Secret’s complaint, which was filed last week in federal court in Los Angeles, Banaszewski has been “advertising, marketing, and offering for sale non-transferrable14 tickets to the 2015 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, annual highlight of the fashion industry … without authorization or consent and in direct violation of the terms under which tickets to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show are issued.”
Victoria’s Secret alleges that “Defendants have repeatedly represented themselves as authorized to sell tickets to the 2015 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and are using both the ‘VICTORIA’S SECRET’ and ‘VICTORIA’S SECRET FASHION SHOW’ trademarks, along with Victoria’s Secret’s goodwill, to prop up these false representations and market and sell these non-transferrable tickets.” As a result, the lingerie giant is suing on the grounds of federal and state trademark infringement and dilution, unfair competition, copyright infringement, violations of California Business and Professional Code, and interference with contract claims.
Victoria’s Secret also states in its complaint that Banaszewski and co. are “well aware” that their conduct is in violation of its ticket policy. According to the complaint:
Invitation and tickets to the Fashion Show are non-transferrable and only authorized and confirmed invitees will receive admission. Invitations and tickets to the Fashion Show are not for sale to the general public. The terms under which all invitations and tickets to the Fashion Show are issued are made clear in at least two communications. Victoria’s Secret sends an invitation to an exclusive list of authorized invitees through its authorized agent, media relations firm KCD. The authorized invitation states: “This invitation is non-transferrable and will not provide admission. RSVP is required and a government-issued ID must be presented upon arrival.”
Once an authorized invitee responds directly to KCD and accepts the￼ invitation, he receives an email detailing the terms of admission to the Fashion Show. The email states: "Tickets are non-transferable and guests MUST present a government-issued photo identification which matches the name on our list in order to gain entry into the venue."
Moreover, the company has used (and continues to use) the “VICTORIA’S SECRET” and “VICTORIA’S SECRET FASHION SHOW” trademarks “on their website and Facebook page to transfer and offer for sale non-transferrable tickets to the ‘most anticipated fashion event of the year – the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2015 and exclusive After Party.’” As such, it appears the defendants’ conduct is not only in violation of Victoria’s Secret’s ticketing policy (hence, the interference with contract claims), but amounts to trademark infringement, dilution, and unfair competition.
Interestingly, Victoria’s Secret has some additional ammunition to support its claims: Banaszewski’s brushes with the law in connection with a number of other awards shows. For example, over ten years ago, he reached a settlement after being sued for selling tickets to the Oscars. More recently, Banaszewski has been the focal point of lawsuits in connection with the Grammy's, after he was caught reselling fraudulent tickets to the ceremony in 2013.
Victoria’s Secret is seeking damages, which will likely add up quickly considering that Banaszewski is charging $17,500.00 for combined fashion show and after party tickets, which according to VIP Concierge’s website are all sold out. However, there are still a few tickets left for just the after party, which are going for $5,990.00. In addition to monetary damages, Victoria’s Secret wants the court to immediately and permanently prohibit Banaszewski from “attempting to offer to buy or sell, or soliciting the purchase or sale of any ticket, badge, credential, or anything entitling the holder to access to any Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show event, pre- and post-show event, or any other event sponsored by or affiliated with Victoria’s Secret or the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.”