Louis Vuitton is very protective of its Toile trademark, and, therefore, is very proactive against counterfeits and unauthorized use of their marks.
After 15 months of investigation, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in favor of Louis Vuitton Malletier SA and Louis Vuitton U.S. Manufacturing Inc. in an unfair trade case involving a large-scale international counterfeiting and knockoff enterprise. The enterprise was allegedly run by Jianyong Zheng and Alice Bei Wang. The pair owned and managed several companies, including T&T Handbag Industrial Co. Ltd. and Sanjiu Leather Co. Ltd. in Guangzhou, China, Meada Corp. and Pacpro Inc. in El Monte, California, and Trendy Creations in Chatsworth, California. Additionally, there are several other companies, including The Inspired Bagger, based in Dallas, and House of Bags, based in Los Angeles, who purchase goods from the companies owned by Zheng and Wang.
The companies manufacture, import, offer for sale and sell thousands of counterfeit and knockoff handbags, luggage, accessories and packaging, infringing on Vuitton’s federally registered U.S. Toile Monogram Mark. In the complaint, Louis Vuitton explained that these companies have “engineered a widespread theft of Louis Vuitton’s intellectual property and goodwill.”
The ITC said it will grant Louis Vuitton’s motion for summary determination of violation of a trademark infringement and counterfeiting section of U.S. import trade law, consistent with an administrative law judge’s initial ruling.
The ITC is not a typical place to file a lawsuit, but this win signifies how seriously the U.S. government is treating counterfeiters: they will not be tolerated. Unfortunately, the ITC rulings are only effective when a fashion house can name identifiable companies sending big shipments of easily identifiable counterfeit goods.
“As the first luxury goods company to seek redress at the ITC, we are pleased with the significant remedy that has been recommended. The chief administrative law judge recognizes the importance of protecting intellectual property and took the welcome step of ensuring that its orders include all merchandise that infringes on our Toile Monogram Marks, and not just products of the respondents in this case,” said Valerie Sonnier, global intellectual property director of Louis Vuitton Malletier. “Preservation of creativity is of the utmost importance to Louis Vuitton. We will continue to protect our brand and customers, and to preserve the rights of designers, artists and brands.”
According to a court case in China, in which Vuitton sued Sanjiu, one of Zheng’s companies, for trademark infringement, that one company exported 8,489 infringing PVC handbags and 672 infringing purses with a value of $58,544.
This information will come in to play when the ITC has to determine the remedy that Louis Vuitton will receive. Vuitton is seeking a permanent exclusion order against the importation of the infringing products, as well as a cease-and-desist order against the companies and their affiliates, subsidiaries, related companies, agents or others who control the entities, halting the importation, sale for importation, marketing, advertising, distribution and sales after importation.
Louis Vuitton, one of the world’s premier designer brands, is suing Warner Bros for the use of fake Louis Vuitton luggage in the comedic film “The Hangover Part II.”
Vuitton claims that despite their instructions not to use fake goods in the airport scene in the movie, the studio disregarded the request by filming one of the main characters carrying replica luggage marked “LVM” and proclaiming “Careful, that is a Louis Vuitton.” In their complaint, Louis Vuitton alleges that Warner Bros violated Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act by falsely designating the origin of the goods and thereby leading to consumer confusion. The luxury brand seeks an order from the court mandating the destruction of all copies of “The Hangover Part II” and related promotional materials, as well as profits from the film plus damages.
Louis Vuitton, undoubtedly aggressive in their brand protection strategies, names Diophy, a Chinese American company, as the manufacturer of the counterfeits. The use of knock-off goods undermines the global fight against counterfeits.
No stranger to legal action, Warner Bros recently settled a copyright case for the unauthorized use of Mike Tyson’s tattoo design. In the instant matter, the complaint also alleges unfair competition and trademark dilution. The studio may invoke the affirmative defense of fair use. A parody can use just enough elements of the original to conjure up the original, while at the same time be different enough that it does not lead to consumer confusion. Where a pet product manufacturer, Haute Diggity Dog parodied famous luxury products, the court concluded that the dog toys could not be mistaken for the luxury brand nor did the toys dilute the brand image.
Who will prevail?
Just a week after the Marc Jacob’s Spring 2012 collection was stolen during its transfer from Paris to London, the Wall Street Journal reports that 300,000 euros [$400, 760 at current exchange] of Louis Vuitton goods were stolen from the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. WWD reports that five masked individuals neutralized four employees and a security guard and took off with ten pallets of Louis Vuitton merchandise. Officials at Louis Vuitton declined to comment, however, French police are currently investigating the theft. According to WWD no further details are currently available.
Its not strange for one to wonder whether these two instances of major luxury theft within the span of one week, within close geographical location are a matter of coincidence or not. Regardless of whether these crimes were done by the same group of individuals, lets hope that enforcement officials can find some answers before other brands become the victims of such crimes.
‘Designer branded’ bandages are available for purchase at the Japanese lifestyle store www.sugiolife.com. Sugiolife acquires these items through a company known as Brandages. Brandages describes these products as “original custom designs to compliment top fashion brands…created with one goal in mind…’to heal in style.’” A consumer can purchase a pack of 6 brandages, 2 brandages per design for $7.95.
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!
Recently, in Manila, Philippines, Rhona Vergara, Senior Partner of the Vergara Mamangun Jamero Gonzales (VMJG) said “in coordination with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, fake Louis Vuitton goods were removed from the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan.” Vergara is amongst the retained counsel of LV in the Philippines to try and stop the sale of counterfeit LV products. A noted 1.2 billion Philippine peso (roughly $27 million) worth of fake LV products and bags were destroyed.
Italy recently confiscated 9 million of counterfeited watches and bracelets in the Palermo, Sicily. The items were counterfeiting famous designers such as Louis Vuitton and D&G. Many Hello Kitty counterfeited health-threatening goods for kids were also seized. A criminal complaint has been filed against the shop owner.
Also, in Friuli, Italy, over 250 million items coming from China with the words “Made in Italy” were seized. The Italian PTO report can be found here.
In a city in Michigan, Clinton Township police found and confiscated 21 boxes of counterfeited jewelry, purses, perfume, and shoes. Prada, Gucci, and Coach were among the fake brands found.
Bloomberg reported that LVMH, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA filed a U.S. trade complaint, going “claws-out” to curtail Chinese copycats from importing counterfeits into the country.
In its U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) complaint, LVMH is seeking an order to stop ALL supplies of sham shoulder bags (along with Louis Vuitton’s other luxury leather goods and accessories) from being imported for sale, regardless of the final seller.
It’s just purrrrfect that LVMH is “nipping” the crimes in the bud right at the border.
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.
Ralph Lauren has said, “I don’t design clothes, I design dreams.”
And he has delivered.
The fashion-stallion’s dreams are likely to earn him the blue ribbon in – Architecture? Art? and Technology? The polo horse has ponied-up to deliver a dramatic digital experience to dazzle customers in London and New York and potentially change the way designers “rein” in business and interact with the consumer.
As reported by the New York Times, Wednesday night, in celebration of the brand’s introduction of their e-commerce business in Britain, London’s Ralph Lauren store, seemed “… to vanish from sight. Then, in the empty space, the mansion on London’s New Bond Street… re-emerged brick by brick, until the facade opened, filled by giant, striding models, four stories tall, their rose-patterned skirts then morphing into beds of flowers.” The show will eventually “trot” across the pond to one of Ralph Lauren’s New York stores.