NEW YORK — A month after failing to win an injunction against Dooney & Bourke for allegedly copying its Murakami handbag design, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is back on the offensive, this time against Wet Seal.

In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court on Sept. 30, Louis Vuitton Malletier — LVMH’s fashion and leather goods division — accused Wet Seal of selling copies of Vuitton’s Theda and Sac de Nuit handbags, as well as a copy of Marc Jacobs’ Venetia bag. According to the complaint, the items were sold at Wet Seal’s Arden B. stores.

Wet Seal’s corporate offices were closed on Friday and the company could not be reached for comment.

According to the complaint, Vuitton became aware of the Arden B. sales in late June, following up with a cease-and-desist letter on Sept. 7.

“Your company’s sale of inexpensive, low-quality slavish knockoffs of Louis Vuitton’s and Marc Jacobs’ emblematic handbags has and will continue to damage the parties in a number of significant and actionable ways,” wrote Vuitton’s lawyers in the letter.

On Sept. 21, a paralegal representing Wet Seal responded via e-mail, saying the company had issued a recall of the items. “This was not done as an admission of guilt but rather a show of cooperation,” said the e-mail.

Vuitton is seeking relief on two counts of trademark infringement and is asking that all copies be handed over for destruction. On the monetary front, Vuitton is asking for triple any profits realized on the sale of the items, attorneys’ fees and an undetermined amount in damages. The company is also asking that Wet Seal “pay for corrective advertising in each and every publication or medium in which any of the infringing handbags has been advertised.”

As Vuitton has learned, winning judgments when it comes to handbags can prove difficult. In August, Vuitton was denied a request for a preliminary injunction against Dooney & Bourke, which it alleged had copied its Murakami design. According to the judge’s ruling in the case, Vuitton failed to prove an intent to deceive customers into believing they were buying an original Vuitton product.

This story first appeared in the October 4, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

— Ross Tucker