The Cop Shop, located on 560 Broadway in Massapequa, is in the midst of a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against them by New York City trademark enforcers. The city is asking the store to take down and stop selling all products that use the NYPD insignia and initials.
The store is owned by longtime Massapequa residents Susan and Salvatore Piccolo. Susan began making NYPD shirts back in the 1980s, which her husband sold when he was a member of the New York City Transit Police. When the couple opened up their store a few years later, in addition to selling a lot of agency-themed merchandise, they began to make and supply uniforms for members of the police and fire departments.
The Piccolos, who are also members of the Massapequa Lions Club, say they dedicate a lot of their time and money giving back to these departments, sometimes not even charging officers for what they make.
“When an officer is killed and we sell shirts for them, we donate that money,” said Susan. “I am not here for the dollar. I enjoy what I do. I’m very proud to be in the family of the NYPD and FDNY.”
The legal trouble began when Gerald Singleton, a lawyer who represents the city in the Labor and Employment division, came to the store in 2010 and informed the couple that the city wanted the sign in front of the store taken down because of the police crest that was on it.
“My husband told him that he’s not taking that sign down until [the city’s police commissioner] comes in here himself because he wore that patch for 20 years,” said Susan.
That same lawyer continued to pursue a lawsuit against the Piccolos, making a case that many items in the store violated the trademark that the city owned. The New York City Police Foundation, who owns the copyright, started to protect the NYPD brand in 2001, officially getting the trademark in 2005.
“In July 2001, the police commissioner granted the foundation the right to use and license the name, trademarks and logos of the NYPD on merchandise for sale to the public,” says the foundation’s website. “Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the market for merchandise surged as members of the public looked for ways to demonstrate their support for the NYPD. As a result, sales of unauthorized goods dramatically increased, and the foundation began an aggressive enforcement campaign to shield the public from counterfeit merchandise and protect the value of the NYPD trademarks in the face of rampant unauthorized sales.”
The city officially filed the lawsuit against the Cop Shop in June 2017 to try to stop the store from selling unlicensed merchandise, which did not include the uniforms and other licensed goods that they can sell. The Cop Shop will be arguing that they have been selling these materials long before the trademark was in place and that they make clear in their store what is the licensed gear and what is the unlicensed merchandise.
“It’s been really tough because I employ people who need jobs in here,” said Susan. “I’ve been doing this for so many years and to be attacked like this, it feels like a vendetta.”
The Piccolos said that the city did try to negotiate a deal with them regarding royalties for their products, but they wanted to know their money was going to a proper place.
“[We found out] it just goes into a general fund,” said Susan. “When they asked us to do royalties with them and make us a distributor of the NYPD stuff, we wouldn’t take it unless we were guaranteed that 50 percent of that money would go to the NYPD and 50 percent would go to the FDNY. They wouldn’t do that.”
Upon finding out that only a small percentage goes to either organization, the Piccolos refused to settle. Almost all cases similar to this were settled between the parties before they made it to court. The Piccolos have taken the city farther than anyone else has, now on the cusp of a potential ruling that could have country-wide ramifications and would answer the question of whether a government agency has a right to protect their trademark from those who sell merchandise that uses the agency name or crest.
The Piccolos have gotten lots of support from the local community, including Assemblyman Mike LiPetri, who Susan says is “like a son” to her. She’s also gotten support by members of the NYPD as well as members of police departments across the country, from LAPD, to law enforcement associations in Florida and Texas.
“Everything I own is in this store,” said Susan. “Someone offered to take up a collection for us and I told them that it was so sweet, but I don’t want anyone’s money. I just want people to know that I’m not doing anything wrong.”
They will continue their legal battle at U.S. District Court in Central Islip on July 24, where the case could be decided before it goes to trial.