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NEW YORK — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton scored a victory against 29 Chinatown retailers selling counterfeit goods as a federal judge upheld the company’s claims of trademark infringement, ordering each to pay $16 million in statutory damages.
If all the counterfeiters are found, identified and forced to pay the damages — an unlikely scenario — LVMH could see a total award of $464 million.
Judge Thomas P. Griesa of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, ruled against the 29 unidentified Canal Street retailers. In addition to the damages, he ordered them to hand over all imitation bags and accessories.
Also named in the suit was landlord Michael Marvisi, who owns the building where the retailers rented space. The judgement focused on the retailers, and offered no ruling on Marvisi.
The original complaint, filed March 2, accused the tenants of selling counterfeit Louis Vuitton and Fendi merchandise. The tenants, said the suit, continued to sell the items despite several raids and the issuance of temporary restraining orders and seizure orders.
“This decision is an important milestone in the battle against counterfeiting and those on Canal Street in New York who engage in it,” said an LVMH spokesperson. “We are fully committed to protecting our brands for the benefit of our customers and to this end, we have a comprehensive and global approach to fighting this serious crime. This decision should serve as a warning to others involved in the counterfeit trade that they will be held accountable for their illegal acts.”
The spokesperson added that additional actions are pending against the landlord.
A spokesperson for Marvisi said the John Doe tenants named in the suit had vacated the buildings, and that attempts had been made to settle with LVMH. The spokesperson added that efforts to settle the matter would continue.
LVMH sought redress on six counts, including trademark counterfeiting and false representation, and sought compensation that included $1 million per counterfeit mark.
The ease with which LVMH was able to prove damages in lost revenues, and the counterfeiters’ intent to deceive consumers, was key to the victory.
The firm’s inability to prove similar harm and intent to deceive was one of the factors a judge cited in denying a preliminary injunction last week against Dooney & Bourke in an entirely separate case.
In a ruling on Friday and reported in WWD on Monday, Judge Shira Scheindlin denied Vuitton’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Dooney & Bourke for emulating certain features of LVMH’s famed Murakami handbags.
The lawsuit still has to be tried on its merits, but the French firm took the ruling as a setback in its quest to protect its creativity.
LVMH charged that Dooney knocked off bags created by Marc Jacobs and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, which feature LVMH’s monogram trademarks on multicolor bags and accessories. Dooney’s attorneys rejected LVMH’s claim.
LVMH has been stepping up its anticounterfeiting efforts, investing an estimated 12 million euros, or $13.6 million, last year.
— Miles Socha, Paris and Ross Tucker, New York