Canadian Judge Sets Record Award to LVMH

Case hinged on repeated sales of counterfeit luxury merchandise.

In a sign that Canada is stepping up its pressure on fake luxury goods, a judge has awarded Louis Vuitton Malletier SA the largest payout in a trademark counterfeiting and copyright suit in the country’s history.

This story first appeared in the August 8, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The award of 982,556 Canadian dollars, or $933,989 at current exchange, came after a four-year legal battle between Louis Vuitton Malletier and a group of British Columbia shop owners who continued to sell counterfeit goods despite court orders.

In her ruling, filed in British Columbia Supreme Court inVancouver on June 19, Madam Justice Mary Ellen Boyd took the operators of Wynnie Lee Fashion to task for their continued infringement. “Damages ought to be awarded on the high end of the scale where the conduct of the defendants, both before and during proceedings, is dismissive of law and order and demonstrates a necessity for deterring future infringements,” she wrote.

Louis Vuitton Malletier, a unit of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, seized hundreds of counterfeit articles at a Wynnie Lee Fashion store in Vancouver in 2004 under an Anton Pillar order. 

According to the June ruling, the four defendants continued to operate three stores under the Wynnie Lee Fashion name in malls and continued to sell counterfeit goods after the initial Anton Pillar action. In March 2006, defendant Wynnie Lee entered into a settlement with Louis Vuitton Malletier to stop selling infringing goods and pay a penalty. An investigation conducted by Louis Vuitton Malletier later that year revealed the defendants were continuing to sell fake goods.

Michael Manson, a partner at the Vancouver law firm Smart & Biggar who served as counsel to Louis Vuitton Malletier in the action, said the size of the judgment reflected the defendants’ continued actions. “I think that judges are sending a message that recidivist activities and disregard for the court won’t be tolerated,” he said.

Madam Justice Boyd presided over a two-day trial in early June in which only one of the four defendants presented herself in court. Manson said that defendant Jacqueline Lee left the court during a lunch break on the first day of trial and never returned.

A representative for Wynnie Lee Fashions and the defendants could not be located for comment. The telephone at the store had been disconnected.