In January Burberry filed a complaint against a group of Chinese internet counterfeiters for use of 22 distinct types of goods bearing Burberry trademarks. Defendants, owners of websites such as yesburberryvision.com and buyburberry.com, not only failed to appear in court but they also failed to answer Burberry’s complaint resulting in an award of $100 million to Burberry as well as any money held by Paypal Inc. Burberry was also awarded a permanent injunction transfering ownership of the domain names to them allowing them to prevent others from doing business with the defendants.
To me, there is nothing more dreamy than Humphrey Bogart; except, perhaps, an image of Bogart in a trench coat. The owner of Bogart’s name and likeness seems to agree and is suing Burberry for posting a picture on Facebook of Mr. Bogart wearing a Burberry trench.
Chanel is taking a stand against counterfeit goods. With over 700 trademarks registered with the Patent and Trademark Office, this high-end brand is bound to attract some knockoffs. The brand recently filed a cyberpiracy and trademark infringement lawsuit against 399 websites the company accuses of selling products with the luxury retailer’s name.
On March 8, the Vancouver Sun reported that Louis Vuitton Canada, Inc. and Burberry Canada are seeking more than $2 million in fees and damages (which would be the largest award in Canadian history) against Singga Enterprises, Altec Productions, and a Vancouver store owner for selling knock-off goods in Canada. The lawsuit was filed after two years of private investigation by the fashion houses revealed that that Singga and Altec were running a large-scale counterfeiting operation which involved manufacturing large quantities of counterfeit products in China and importing them for sale throughout Canada and online.
Holy Hockey Sticks… This is actually nothing new, Canada has traditionally been a safe-haven for importing counterfeits due to lax IP laws and weak border protections – they just aren’t tending goal. Customs officers in Canada have very little authority to “stop the puck.” Officials are only permitted to proactively seize goods being imported if one of two situations exists: either if the intellectual property rights owner obtains a prior court order or if the seizure is requested by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation. Officers are only allowed to look for hidden or undeclared goods; so if counterfeit imports are declared, they cannot be prevented from entering Canada.
Canada has made some recent attempts to improve their own IP laws to combat counterfeiting crimes… AND it is “aboot” time! In December 2010, Canadian Parliament passed C-36, the Consumer Products Safety Act, with the purpose of public protection. Provisions include a prohibition against labeling creating an erroneous impression as to the safety of the product and a prohibition against misused certification marks. The Act also imposes criminal liability for violations. C-32, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act, was also introduced in 2010 and, among others, included provisions that would potentially impose liability on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and prohibit circumvention of “technical protection measures.” Unfortunately, with last week’s announcement of a dissolution of parliament pending a Canadian general election on May 2, 2011, the bill is as dead as a moose during hunting season.
In addition to the national efforts to “freeze-out” counterfeiters, Canada is also a party to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which is a controversial plurilateral agreement aiming to increase and harmonize international IP laws among the signatories (including the U.S. – See the USTR fact sheet HERE & request for public comments HERE) and the EU. The text of the final proposed ACTA is available on the United States Trade Representatives website. Critics of the agreement claim that the act favors rights-holders with provisions calling for increased enforcement of all intellectual property rights, urging the usage of government resources to enforce rights held by private companies instead of allowing private companies to protect those rights through civil litigation (See a criticism of ACTA published by American University HERE).
Eh, Canada, you might have try a little harder to keep the peace… we may need a Zamboni to smooth this one over!
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is using court orders to seize domain names of sites selling counterfeit goods. Once seized, the website displays a message that selling counterfeit products could lead to 10 years in prison or a $2 million fine for first time offenders.
82 websites have been seized, ranging from torrent downloads to luxury knock-offs such as http://burberryoutletshop.com/ and http://www.louis-vuitton-outlet-store.com/. It is unclear if the web or IP address is affected, as those seized can switch domain names to continue selling counterfeited products.
The current list of seized websites can be found here.
Imagine purchasing a designer bag and then going to the designer’s shop, only to discover that your bag is a fake? This is exactly what happened to Sara Zucker. According to Racked, Zucker visited Foley + Corinna’s Lower East Side shop this weekend, only to discover that the Foley + Corinna tote she recently purchased at Century21 is a fake! The differences between the real and the fake bag is that the fake bag has a shorter strap, it has gold hardware instead of silver hardware, and the lining of the bag is shiner.
One of Foley + Corinna’s designers confirmed that the company does not conduct business with Century21. Did Century21 knowingly sell a fake bag or was the company deceived by counterfeit vendors? Where do discount designer companies purchase their products from and what criteria to they follow when making purchasing decisions?
Burberry is no stranger to the fashionistas for their trademark-style plaid pattern. They are no stranger to lawyers, either.
For those of us with modest means, a trip to a high end luxury goods store may result in a purchase of something small like a key fob, coin purse, or if you’re like me, maybe a pair of fabulous sunglasses. And to be completely honest, I feel cooler and more stylish for just carrying around the shopping bag with the luxury brand on it…even more so than I do wearing the item inside the bag! Why? Maybe it’s because an on-looker can only imagine what’s in my little shopping bag, whereas they can speculate as to the authenticity of my accessories. The point is, it feels nice to be able to purchase and show off something that is considered luxurious, and ultimately elite (again, for me just the shopping bag will do). Chanel knows what I’m talking about with their line of bags made to mimic their own shopping bags:
Express had sued Forever 21 in California claiming that Forever 21 had infringed on the copyright of Express’s men’s plaid pants. WWD reportedthat Forever 21 has won its case in a summary judgment, because they were based on pre-existing plaid designs. The issue in this case was originality – an essential element of copyright.
What does that mean for Burberry’s plaid? Burberry’s famous plaid may seem unoriginal and unexpressive. For those of you who feel that way, Burberry designers won’t be too offended. The famous plaid design is protected by trademark law, not copyright, and has been trademarked in black and white to claim any number of color combinations of different background and line colors. Burberry counsels are really smart for registering that mark because being a trademark means that it will be protected forever.