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Jack Link's coupons

Ten months after striking fear into the hearts of eBay coupon sellers, and possibly eBay itself, a company that went to federal court to stop the scourge of counterfeit coupons for its products is giving up its legal battle. Link Snacks, the maker of Jack Link’s beef jerky, has notified the court that it’s withdrawing its case against the eBay users who sold fraudulent Jack Link’s coupons, and three suspected counterfeiters who have apparently vanished without a trace.

The voluntary dismissal without prejudice would still give Link Snacks the right to refile the case, should any of the three primary suspects turn up. But the company admitted last summer that the trail had gone cold. It requested and was granted two separate extensions of time to find and identify the defendants it was planning on suing. Yesterday marked the end of the second extension, and Link Snacks did not request a third.

The case began back in March of 2013, when Link Snacks filed a lawsuit against 100 “John Does”, unknown people who were creating and selling counterfeit Jack Link’s coupons on eBay. The coupons promised a free package of any Jack Link’s product, valued at up to $13. “Link Snacks offered a coupon similar to the one identified above in 2009,” the lawsuit noted. But with the expiration dates altered, copied versions of the coupons continued to show up on eBay, and on the Coupon Information Corporation’s list of known counterfeits.

Link Snacks acknowledged that it didn’t know the names of the “John Does” it was suing, but it proceeded to find out. The company subpoenaed eBay to hand over the names and contact information associated with dozens of screen names that Link Snacks had identified as selling counterfeit Jack Link’s coupons.

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Some of those sellers were understandably shaken when they were contacted by Link Snacks’ attorneys, notifying them that they could end up as defendants in a federal lawsuit. After questioning the sellers about the source of their fake coupons, Link Snacks managed to trace them to three men with Illinois mailing addresses. The mailing addresses turned out to be uninhabited homes, and efforts to locate the men have proven unsuccessful.

Absent the actual counterfeiters, Link Snacks had the option of naming the eBay resellers as defendants in the lawsuit – and it still does, if it chooses to reinstate the case – but it chose to give up the legal fight instead. That’s likely because, while its battle against the counterfeiters may have been unsuccessful, its battle against the counterfeits themselves has largely been won.

Back in July, eBay announced new rules forbidding the sale of coupons for free products on its site. Counterfeit or not, coupons for free Jack Link’s products are no longer allowed to be sold on eBay. And today, an eBay search for “Jack Link’s coupons” comes up empty.

eBay never said what prompted its change in policy, and Link Snacks has not commented on whether it pressured eBay to make the change. But one suspects the lawsuit certainly got eBay’s attention.

So Link Snacks may not have found the counterfeiters, but it has apparently managed to stop a majority of the counterfeits. Or contribute to stopping them. Or benefited from the complete coincidence of eBay making a coupon policy change right in the middle of the legal case. Either way, score one for the good guys in the battle against counterfeit coupons – though, in this case at least, the bad guys are still out there.

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