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Van Cleef Loses Judgment

Van Cleef & Arpels has been ordered to award former designer Thierry Berthelot damages for breaching its employment agreement.

PARIS — A Paris labor court has ordered Van Cleef & Arpels to pay around 170,000 euros, or $230,970 at current exchange, to a former jewelry designer for breaching its employment agreement.

This story first appeared in the March 19, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Thierry Berthelot, who worked at the Compagnie Financière Richemont-owned jewelry house from 1985 until his dismissal in 2005, was awarded the compensation, which included severance and holiday pay plus punitive damages, on March 18. Van Cleef & Arpels’ lawyer, Vincent Fauchoux, on Monday said the firm will appeal the decision.

The ruling is the first in an ongoing battle between Van Cleef and Berthelot. In May, Paris’ high court will hear Berthelot’s claim, among others, for 3 million euros, or $3.9 million, that Van Cleef is using designs that the designer maintains are his intellectual property.

Van Cleef, which has lodged a countersuit against Berthelot for abuse of legal proceedings, counters that any designs commissioned by the house are its intellectual property, and not Berthelot’s.

Berthelot’s lawyer, François Berbinau, has said that if the copyright claim is recognized by the court, the case could underline the importance of in-house jewelry designers.