MILAN — After four-and-a-half years of litigation, the Versace group has scored a court victory in a counterfeit case in Northern California against Griffith Suisse Luxury Group.
This story first appeared in the May 29, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Griffith Suisse had been selling counterfeit Versace-related merchandise on eBay out of the Philippines and Australia. As a result of the court ruling, the group is now prevented from using Versace’s trademarks, and is indefinitely unable to use eBay as a selling platform. “Counterfeit goods not only bring to a dilution of the brand, but are connected to organized crime, child labor and harmful working conditions,” Versace chief executive officer Gian Giacomo Ferraris told WWD. “We are very pleased with the ruling. Versace is a brand that is well known around the world, and the violation of its intellectual property rights is a problem that the company has always been actively fighting. One cannot take pride in being counterfeited.”
The executive touted Versace’s user-friendly certified system that allows customers to verify a product through a serial number based on an algorithm. “It’s a clear system and very transparent. We want to protect consumers and all those affected by the manufacture and trade in fake goods,” he said.
Ferraris said the Certilogo code is also applied to Versace sales online, as customers can check a purchase and, if it is a counterfeit, send it back.
“I want to take this opportunity and thank our legal team, both in-house and at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hamptom LLP, for conceiving a strategy that gave Griffith no alternative but accept our requests,” said Ferraris.
Separately, the executive reiterated Versace is still in “a phase of discussion” with its advisers Goldman Sachs and Banca IMI to determine the best path for future growth. He had no comment on ongoing speculation that Qatar Holding LLC, a global investment firm founded by the Qatar Investment Authority in 2006, is interested in investing in the Italian luxury fashion house. In November, Qatar Holding signed an agreement with Italy’s Fondo Strategico Italiano, the holding controlled by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, or CDP, a joint-stock company under public control, to create a joint venture, IQ Made in Italy, which will invest in Italian brands. Barely had the ink dried when speculation about the venture eyeing Versace and Dolce & Gabbana started to spread.
In April, Versace reported 2012 group revenues of 408.7 million euros, or $523.1 million at average exchange, up 20 percent compared with 2011, and, commenting on the results, Ferraris said at the time there were no immediate plans to take Versace public or sell a stake. However, he did set a target for when that might happen: when the company hits sales of 500 million to 600 million euros, or $646.6 million to $776 million at current exchange.
Siblings Santo and Donatella Versace hold 30 and 20 percent stakes, respectively, and Donatella’s daughter, Allegra Versace Beck, owns 50 percent of the firm.