A PENSIONER accused of running a counterfeit Premier League football merchandise operation from a garden shed has been cleared of copyright infringement charges.
Representatives of eight top British clubs were in court to give evidence against Dublin market trader Christopher Russell (66) -- but the case was dismissed.
He had been accused of illegally using their trademarks after gardai found thousands of unofficial hats and scarves, as well as sewing equipment in sheds and outhouses at his daughter's Cabra home.
But a judge ruled that there was no evidence Russell had actually produced the goods on the day they were seized, as the charges stated.
Dismissing the case, Judge John O'Neill pointed out that a charge for possession of the merchandise under the same Act could have been brought by the State instead.
The defendant, of Dingle Road, Cabra, had denied eight charges under the Trademarks Act at Abbeyside, Broombridge Road on June 11, 2009.
Brand protection managers of all eight clubs gave evidence for the prosecution at Russell's trial at Dublin District Court.
The representatives, from Manchester United, Liverpool, Celtic, Chelsea, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Everton and Sunderland, all told the court the merchandise seized by the gardai was counterfeit and that Russell was not licensed to sell any goods from their clubs.
When asked to examine the hats and scarves, they pointed to "wonky" stitching, out-of-date or incorrect emblems and details, and the absence of labels. One hat bore the logo: "Sunderlanda FC".
Detective Garda Martin Geraghty said the home of the accused's daughter was searched and the items found in sheds in the back garden.
Also found were sewing machines and detailed instructions on how to stitch football club emblems onto hats and scarves. Det Garda Geraghty detailed nearly 3,000 items found seized in the search and said they took up nearly the entire property storage unit at Cabra Garda Station.
In interview, Russell admitted the clothing were his, for selling at markets, mainly at Christmas. He said he had bought them "as they were" and they had built up over several years.
The accused told gardai he bought the sewing machines from an English man to try to save on costs by putting the emblems on himself, but said he had never actually used the machines.
He thought the merchandise were copies but did not know they were counterfeit.
"I thought they were alright," he told gardai.
One of the club representatives, Joanne McNairn from Celtic said counterfeiting was a very big problem.
"It can be quite hard to quantify, but it costs the club a substantial amount of money," she said.
Barrister Niall Nolan said the charges all stated that Russell was accused of applying a mark identical to or resembling a registered trademark to the clothing on the date and location they were seized. There was no evidence he had done this.
State solicitor Mary Kate Halpin asked the judge to decide based on the alleged facts of the case.
The judge said the accused had no case to answer and dismissed the charges.
He refused to grant an order for the destruction of the merchandise.