PARIS — Fendi bags at Sam’s Club?

Only counterfeit ones, the Roman fashion house claims in a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, on Friday. The complaint details 12 handbags and small leather goods sold at Sam’s Clubs in five states as examples, discounted anywhere from 22 to 68 percent off regular prices.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., parent of Sam’s Club, has until Friday to decide whether to withdraw the products from its stores or continue selling them.

“The company is absolutely going to fight this,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said Monday. “We believe the complaint is without merit. We believe that we can demonstrate that the products we are selling were acquired properly and we’ll be able to demonstrate that when the suit is heard. They are actual Fendi products. We believe that we can prove that they are not counterfeits. It’s our policy not to sell counterfeit products.”

Asked whether Sam’s Club will remove the products from its shelves, the spokesman added, “We have not removed the products for sale because we believe them to be authentic. We are fairly certain we can prove that.”

Fendi officials could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The complaint, being heard by judge John Sprizzo, alleges that Sam’s Club is selling counterfeit products that display Fendi trademarks and are identified by tags as genuine Fendi articles. For example, it pictures a black handbag priced at $508.25, roughly 45 percent less than what Fendi would charge for a similar style.

Fendi is seeking injunctive relief and damages for trademark counterfeiting, false designation of origin and trademark dilution. The complaint says Wal-Mart has never purchased products from Fendi or any of its affiliates.

Should Wal-Mart ignore the complaint, Fendi will likely proceed with efforts to obtain a preliminary injunction.

Last January, Fendi filed a trio of trademark cases in Manhattan federal court alleging trademark counterfeiting and false designation of origin against Filene’s Basement Inc. and Retail Ventures Inc.

The French luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Fendi’s parent, has also stepped up anticounterfeiting efforts, recently winning cases against landlords in the U.S. and China.

This story first appeared in the June 13, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club and Costco often sell a small amount of designer apparel and accessories at deeply discounted prices. However, in most cases, the products are not bought directly from the luxury goods companies, but instead from diverters, store closeouts or other so-called “gray market” sources. As a result, the amount of luxury and designer products on sale at any time can vary widely depending on what the clubs are able to buy.

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