NEW YORK — Kathrine Baumann, the Beverly Hills-based designer of jewel-studded handbags, scored a victory against a group of Manhattan retailers selling knockoffs.
On Oct. 15, Judge Richard C. Casey of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, issued a permanent injunction against 10 retailers and eight defendants, barring them from selling counterfeit Baumann handbags.
The retailers and defendants could not be reached for comment.
Although the decision halts the counterfeiting activity, the court’s ruling granted Baumann and her company, Kathrine Baumann Beverly Hills, no monetary award for damages, stating only that each party would be responsible for its own legal fees. However, there was an undisclosed monetary settlement between the parties.
According to the original complaint, filed Feb. 13, 2004, Manhattan-based Y&S Handbags Inc. and its owners — Larry, Pincus, Charles and Arie Rand — controlled the counterfeit ring, contracting with overseas manufacturers to produce copies of Baumann designs. Once imported, the bags were distributed to various retailers.
Background information provided in the complaint said one of the defendants, Ali “Sonny” Zaidi, had been arrested in Dec. 2002 as part of a U.S. Customs Service investigation into the selling of the bags. As part of his criminal sentencing, Zaidi submitted statements that he had been directed by others as to how to sell the bags.
It was this level of organization that led Baumann to allege violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, which is more commonly associated with mob-related activity. In all, Baumann sought redress on 12 counts, including copyright infringement and unjust enrichment.
Baumann’s bags have frequently been seen in the hands of actresses making their way down the red carpet and can be found in high-end jewelry stores, including David Orgell in Beverly Hills and Harrods of London. Most bags retail for between $800 to $2,700. According to a 2002 WWD article, Baumann had exceeded $2 million in annual sales. Top sellers include the American Flag collection, which benefits New York firefighters and police officers affected by the Sept. 11 attacks. Other bestsellers include the Coke bag, Chinese Takeout, Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse and the caviar bag.