Bella Hadid for Tag Heuer

LVMH is going after Tag Heuer and Hublot counterfeiters, claiming their fake wares and their social media advertising strategy are damaging the luxury watch brands.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton subsidiary LVMH Swiss Manufactures SA on Tuesday urged an Illinois federal court to stop a “network” of Chinese counterfeit entities from making and selling online a range of fake Tag Heuer and Hublot watches that make blatant use of the luxury company’s trademarks and designs.

The company admitted that the counterfeiters “go to great lengths” to obscure their identities and create “Internet stores by the hundreds and design them to appear to be selling genuine products,” but there are marked similarities in layout and fake product that show them to be part of a Chinese collective, according to the complaint.

Beyond the look of the accused web sites and their merchandise, LVMH said the counterfeiters incorporate the Tag Heuer and Hublot brand names in numerous areas of text and metadata in order to get online shoppers to the sites, along with other web maneuvers.

“Defendants use other unauthorized search engine optimization tactics and social media spamming so that defendant Internet stores’ listings show up at or near the top of relevant search results and misdirect consumers searching for genuine products,” LVMH said. “Other defendants only show plaintiffs’ trademarks in product images while using strategic item titles and descriptions that will trigger their listings when consumers are searching for plaintiffs products.”

The company pointed to merchant web sites such AS eBay and Alibaba as examples of other hosts of the spam adverts.

Although LVMH is demanding that all of the domain names, which were filed under court seal, be halted and handed over to the company, it may not do much to stop the sale of knock-off watches.

LVMH said in its complaint that counterfeiters like those being accused here tend to make immediate use of lax registration requirements for new domain names and move their web operations to “rogue servers” known for ignoring brand and court-ordered take-down notices.

The counterfeiters also generally operate payments through PayPal, but once they are notified of a lawsuit, they allegedly move funds to offshore bank accounts, making collection of profits difficult, if not impossible.

Nevertheless, LVMH is asking the Illinois court to award damages equal to all of the defendants’ ill-gotten profits, or up to $2 million for each use of its trademarks and $100,000 per domain name incorporating any of its trademarks.

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