NEW YORK — Tory Burch is taking a hard line on counterfeiting.
This story first appeared in the May 31, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The women’s accessories and apparel retailer filed four lawsuits in the Southern District of New York today against wholesalers selling what it claims amounts to a “substantial” amount of counterfeit Tory Burch jewelry.
Although each lawsuit is being filed separately, Tory Burch’s legal team told WWD that it believes the lawsuits are “interconnected,” as the jewelry seized in each instance appears to be related. The baubles include necklaces, earrings and bracelets bearing a design similar to its signature TT design, which consists of two opposing “T”s.
Burch said the fake jewelry had been on display at various trade shows and in the wholesalers’ showrooms. In certain instances, the brand became aware of the sale of the fakes directly from its customers.
“The company has long been vigilant in defending our intellectual property, and will continue to take counterfeiting and copyright infringement seriously,” said Robert Isen, Tory Burch president of corporate development and chief legal officer. “It is an ongoing formidable challenge impacting our entire industry.”
In the first lawsuit, Tory Burch LLC and its subsidiary company River Light LLP sued Wona Trading Inc. and Grace Thun, claiming the defendants sold counterfeit Burch baubles on wonatrading.com, in the company’s store in New York and to other retailers.
The brand also sued Lin & J International Inc. and co-owners Lani Kim and Youngran Kim, claiming the Chinese company sold “thousands” of units of counterfeit Burch jewelry to a host of retailers, including to chain retailers in Texas since 2012. Earlier this year, Burch sent a representative to Lin & J’s showroom in New York. According to the lawsuit, the representative was shown a variety of knockoffs and told the minimum order was $350. Burch also identified a wholesaler in Alabama who fingered Lin & J as their supplier of thousands of units of fake jewelry. In court papers, Burch said the defendants attended the International Fashion & Jewelry Accessory Show in Orlando in February, where they showcased the baubles and took orders for no less than $1,000.
In the third lawsuit, Burch sued New York-based Jewelry House Corp. and Uk “Jimmy” Choi, citing for evidence a seizure that took place in 2011. New York City Police nabbed more than 500 units of counterfeit jewelry from the company, which resulted in the arrest of its owner, Choi, for felony trademark counterfeiting.
The final complaint was filed against California-based Glitzlane Boutique and its owner, Martha Buchanan. Glitzlane allegedly sold knockoff Burch jewelry in-store and on its Web site. The photos of some of the jewelry depicted in the complaint looked similar to the jewelry sold by Lin & J.
Counsel for Burch said they believe Glitzlane obtained the knockoffs from one of the other wholesalers it filed against, but didn’t specify which one.
In all four cases, Burch is seeking unspecified damages and injunctive relief. The slate of lawsuits is, for Burch, yet another avenue to protect the brand from being copied. As the company’s popularity has grown over the last few years, it has had to ramp up its anticounterfeiting efforts, according to Isen, who called the defendants in each case “large actors” in the proliferation of fake Burch jewelry.
“It is a global approach and it’s a multipronged approach. We have built a strong internal team that’s focused on brand enforcement,” Isen said. “There’s no silver bullet. The counterfeiters continue to evolve and we look for new ways of finding them and shutting them down. We are constantly looking to evolve our strategy.”