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Legal Briefs

NEW YORK — <STRONG>L’Koral Inc.</STRONG> is taking the offensive against counterfeiters of its high-end Seven For All Mankind jeans. Since December, the Los Angeles-based denim manufacturer filed three lawsuits against several midtown...

NEW YORK — L’Koral Inc. is taking the offensive against counterfeiters of its high-end Seven For All Mankind jeans. Since December, the Los Angeles-based denim manufacturer filed three lawsuits against several midtown Manhattan retailers and Loehmann’s Inc., leveling charges of trademark infringement, counterfeiting and false designation of origin. In early December, L’Koral moved against Chic Lady Ltd. and Albert Import-Export Ltd., both operating out of locations on West 36th Street. In a Dec. 22 order, Judge Denise L. Cote authorized U.S. marshals to seize the counterfeit goods and anything used to make the goods, as well as the retailers’ books and records.

“There are innumerable trademark filings for ‘7’ or the word ‘seven’ on clothing alone,” said Dan Marotta, a lawyer for one of the defendants and partner in Dowd & Marotta LLC. “Boutiques and fashion business owners shouldn’t have to bear the consequences of that blurring and confusion. The real company should step up and provide guidance on how to distinguish one brand from another and legitimate brands from counterfeits.”

On the same day that orders for seizure were issued, L’Koral filed suit against Loehmann’s, alleging that counterfeit Authentic 7 Jeans had been purchased at stores here and Long Beach, Calif. According to the complaint, Loehmann’s did not offer the goods on the sales floor, but “maintains its inventory of counterfeit merchandise in separate rooms, where it is not visible to the general public. Customers who ask for Seven For All Mankind merchandise by name are provided counterfeit merchandise by defendant’s employees.” A Loehmann’s spokesperson said the company would not comment on pending legal matters.

Most recently, L’Koral filed suit against SSS Sales Co. of N.Y., located on West 36th Street, and Robert Apfel Associates Inc., located on West 57th Street. Neither company could be reached for comment. According to background information offered in all three lawsuits, second-year sales of Authentic 7 Jeans vaulted to $58 million from $12 million in the first year. The jeans have sold more than $300 million since being introduced four years ago and are the market-share leader for jeans priced more than $120.

Meanwhile, the courts are hoping Juicy Couture and Lancôme can reach a settlement over Lancôme’s use of the Juicy name on cosmetics. On Jan. 6 Cote ordered the case to be referred to a magistrate judge for settlement talks, which may or may not prove fruitful. Juicy, which was acquired by Liz Claiborne Inc. in 2003, filed its complaint in early September, accusing Paris-based Lancôme Parfums et Beaute & Cie of infringing on its trademark rights by selling cosmetics and fragrances using the Juicy name. At issue is Lancôme’s use of names such as Juicy, Juicy Pop, Juicy Rouge and Juicy Wear on an array of products including cosmetics bags, lipstick, lip gloss and nail polish.

According to the complaint, Lancôme employed advertising techniques that Juicy Couture feels imitate its “own style of promotion,” causing confusion in the marketplace and potentially diluting sales. The suit pointed to the production and advertisement of Lancôme’s Juicy Wear line in particular as evidence of the company’s intent to confuse or deceive customers, a crucial element plaintiffs must prove in trademark violation cases.

“Lancôme’s introduction of a lip color and shine product duo under the mark Juicy Wear, a mark having obvious apparel connotations, further evidences Lancôme’s predatory intent to trade upon the goodwill and reputation of Juicy,” said the complaint. The complaint went on to say that Lancôme’s Juicy lip product had been sold with a promotional handbag made of a pink “suede-like material” with a brown vinyl handle and silver zippers. Juicy contends the bag is a copy of its pink terry cloth bag with a brown leather handle and a silver zipper.