Coach Inc. brought a trademark lawsuit against the city of Chicago last week, alleging that vendors at a city-controlled street market have sold counterfeit goods.

This story first appeared in the May 24, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to the complaint, filed May 19 in U.S. District Court in Chicago, investigators for the accessories brand found several booths at the New Maxwell Street Market selling fakes last summer. After city authorities pursued criminal cases against two of the vendors, Coach said it sent the city a cease and desist letter in December asking it to halt further sales of counterfeits at the market. According to the suit, the city never responded, and Coach said its investigators found fake goods for sale at the bazaar as recently as March.

A city spokeswoman said Friday the city had not yet seen the suit and could not comment on the allegations.

Though the city of Chicago makes for a higher-profile defendant than is typical, Coach’s tactic in the suit is fairly common. Intellectual property owners regularly serve suits on the owners of flea markets and swap meets thought to be hosting counterfeit dealers under the premise of contributory infringement. The legal theory holds that market owners who should have reasonably known such activity was taking place can be found liable for it.

Coach’s complaint also lists the original two vendors and up to 100 anonymous parties as co-defendants. The company is seeking $2 million per mark infringed, legal fees and other, unspecified damages.

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