HILFIGER SUIT CHARGES WAL-MART WITH SELLING COUNTERFEIT GOODS
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — Tommy Hilfiger is crying foul.
Tommy Hilfiger USA Inc. and Tommy Hilfiger Licensing Inc. have filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart seeking court action to prevent the retailer from selling counterfeit Tommy Hilfiger apparel over the Internet. Hilfiger alleges Wal-Mart is selling counterfeit goods “in blatant contempt of a 1996 court order mandating that Wal-Mart stop infringing Tommy Hilfiger trademarks.”
According to documents filed by Tommy Hilfiger with the U.S. Federal District Court here, Wal-Mart has been selling counterfeit Hilfiger apparel, including socks and T-shirts, through its Internet shopping site.
“Quality issues became apparent,” said a Hilfiger spokeswoman. “The stitching, the look of the logo, the colors and the labeling were inconsistent with normal standards.”
This is the third time Hilfiger has brought trademark infringement charges against Wal-Mart. In 1994, Hilfiger sued Wal-Mart for selling shirts that it said infringed upon Hilfiger’s well-known crest logo, and Wal-Mart consented to a permanent injunction against the design. Also in 1994, U.S. Customs agents at the Texas-Mexico border detained counterfeit Tommy Hilfiger shirts being imported by Wal-Mart. Hilfiger again filed suit, and in 1996, according to Hilfiger officials, Wal-Mart consented to a permanent injunction against infringing any of the designer’s trademarks.
In the motion filed Monday, Hilfiger asks the court to find Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Sam’s Wholesale Club in contempt for violating the 1996 court order. Hilfiger also asks the court to order Wal-Mart to recall the infringing articles and reimburse the money paid by the Internet shoppers.
The motion states, “Any experienced apparel buyer would know, instantly, merely by examining the goods, that they were counterfeit.” It adds, “Having twice had permanent injunctions entered against it, Wal-Mart could not just look the other way. It had the obligation to go further and test the goods, or contact Hilfiger to determine whether the goods were authentic.”
Joel Horowitz, chief executive officer of Hilfiger USA, said in a statement, “It is outrageous for a company of Wal-Mart’s stature and sophistication to harm consumers by engaging in counterfeit commerce, particularly over the Internet, where Tommy Hilfiger does not presently authorize sales of its products.
“It is all the more outrageous when it does so repeatedly. We do not tolerate trademark infringement by anyone. We are certainly not going to tolerate Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in America, using the reach and power of the Internet to mislead consumers and infringe our rights,” he said.
Wal-Mart officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., established its on-line site in 1996 and has the most extensive Web site of the big three discounters; the others are Kmart and Target.
Wal-Mart displays about 500,000 items for on-line purchase, including 300,000 books. Among the 31 categories it sells on line are apparel, automotive, computers, groceries, hardware, records and sporting goods.