Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Commonwealth v. Omar

October 5, 2009

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT
v.
OMAR A. OMAR, APPELLEE
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT
v.
DANIEL J. O'CONNOR, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County dated November 15, 2007 at No. CP-14-CR-: 0001200-2007 Dismissing Count 1 as Unconstitutional and Quashing the Criminal Information. Appeal from the Order of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, dated January 25, 2008 at No. CP-14-CR-2020-2007.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Baer

CASTILLE, C.J., SAYLOR, EAKIN, BAER, TODD, McCAFFERY, GREENSPAN, JJ.

SUBMITTED: December 2, 2008

ARGUED: December 2, 2008

OPINION

In these consolidated cases, the Centre County Court of Common Pleas dismissed charges filed by the Commonwealth for violations of the Trademark Counterfeiting Statute, 18 Pa.C.S. § 4119, based on the trial court's prior decision striking the statute as unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. Accordingly, the Commonwealth has filed direct appeals to this Court, which has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from final orders of the court of common pleas declaring laws of the Commonwealth unconstitutional. 42 Pa.C.S. § 722(7). We conclude that because the statute criminalizes speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, it is unconstitutionally overbroad. Accordingly, we affirm the decisions of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County.

We cannot consider the cases currently under review without first addressing the prior decisions of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas, striking the Trademark Counterfeiting Statute as unconstitutional. In Commonwealth v. Garrity, Centre County Crim. No. 1999-2264 (March 27, 2000), the Pennsylvania State University Police arrested James P. Garrity, Jr., for selling t-shirts with the words "Ninety-Eight Degrees" and "Penn State University" on the Penn State Campus during a concert by the band "Ninety-Eight Degrees." The district attorney charged Garrity with violating the Trademark Counterfeiting Statute because "Penn State" was a registered federal trademark. Garrity challenged the constitutionality of the statute claiming it was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.

After observing that statutes are presumed to be constitutional, the trial court noted that a statute is potentially unconstitutionally overbroad if it punishes constitutionally protected speech. See DePaul v. Commonwealth, 969 A.2d 536, 553 (Pa. 2009) ("[T]he U.S. Supreme Court and this Court have recognized that the overbreadth doctrine permits the facial invalidation of laws that inhibit the exercise of First Amendment rights if the impermissible applications of the law are substantial when judged in relation to the statute's plainly legitimate sweep.")(internal quotation marks omitted). The trial court stated that the Trademark Counterfeiting Statute defines the crime as "Any person who knowingly manufactures, uses, displays, advertises, distributes, offers for sale, sells or possesses with intent to sell or distribute any items or services bearing or identified by a counterfeit mark shall be guilty of the crime of trademark counterfeiting." 18 Pa.C.S. § 4119(a).*fn1 A counterfeit mark is defined by the statute as either "(1) [a]ny unauthorized reproduction or copy of intellectual property" or "(2) [i]ntellectual property affixed to any item knowingly sold, offered for sale, manufactured or distributed or identifying services offered or rendered, without the authority of the owner of the intellectual property." 18 Pa.C.S. § 4119(i). Combining subsections (a) and (i)(1), the court noted, "this statute makes it unlawful to reproduce any trademark for any use, without the express permission of the owner of the intellectual property." Garrity Slip Op. at 5 (emphasis in original). The court observed that this prohibition would apply to constitutionally protected activity such as "[w]rit[ing] the words 'Penn State' on a political placard or sign, such as, 'Penn State students for the Constitution.'"*fn2 Id. The court therefore held that the Trademark Counterfeiting Statute is unconstitutionally overbroad and dismissed the charge filed against Garrity for violating the then-unconstitutional statute. Although the Commonwealth initially appealed the March 2000 decision in Garrity, it abandoned the appeal, leaving Garrity as controlling law in Centre County.

Similarly, in Commonwealth v. Price, Centre County No. CP-14-CR-2211-2006 (November 15, 2007), the trial court, with the same trial judge presiding, dismissed charges filed against a defendant under the Trademark Counterfeiting Statute. The court rejected the Commonwealth's argument that other states have upheld similar counterfeit trademark statutes, observing that those statutes did not criminalize the "use" of the trademark.

Currently before this Court is the case of Omar A. Omar. On May 16, 2007, a police officer stopped Appellee Omar for exceeding the speed limit on Route 80 in Centre County. Upon seeing a number of boxes of what appeared to be counterfeit Nike sneakers, the officer arrested Appellee Omar for violation of the Trademark Counterfeiting Statute. Although Appellee Omar challenged the legality of the search and seizure in a motion to suppress, the trial court determined that consideration of the legality of the search was unnecessary given its decision in Garrity, followed in Price, that the statute was unconstitutional. The court observed that "an unconstitutional statute is ineffective for any purpose; it is as if it were never enacted." Tr. Ct. Slip Op. at 2, quoting Glen-Gery Corp. v. Zoning Hearing Bd. of Dover Tp., 907 A.2d 1033, 1043 (Pa. 2006). Accordingly, finding a defect on the face of the criminal information that prevented prosecution, the court quashed the information and dismissed the charges against Appellee Omar.

In the other case consolidated for appeal before this Court, Appellee Daniel J. O'Connor was arrested for selling hats bearing the Penn State logo outside Beaver Stadium on the Penn State campus. Appellee O'Connor was charged with violating the Trademark Counterfeiting Statute because he did not have the appropriate approval to use the Penn State name and logo on the hats. Appellant O'Connor filed a motion to quash the information based upon the trial court's prior determination that the statute was unconstitutional. As in Appellee Omar's case, the trial court dismissed the charges.

The Commonwealth now appeals the decisions dismissing the charges based upon the trial court's conclusion that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.*fn3

Given the trial court's holding of unconstitutionality, this Court noted probable jurisdiction and consolidated the Commonwealth's appeals relating to Appellees Omar and O'Connor.

The Commonwealth asserts that the trial court erred when it concluded that the Trademark Counterfeiting Statute was unconstitutional. The Commonwealth observes that courts must presume that statutes are constitutional, and strike them as unconstitutional only if the statute clearly, palpably, and plainly violates the Constitution. See Commonwealth v. Davidson, 938 A.2d 198, 207 (Pa. 2007). Accordingly, the Commonwealth emphasizes the heavy burden of proof placed upon those challenging the constitutionality of a statute. The Commonwealth correctly notes that a statute is ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.