High Court orders company to pay $35,000 for selling fake Louis Vuitton wallets

A shopper looking at the window display of a Louis Vuitton store. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE - The High Court has ordered a local company to pay $35,000 in statutory damages for selling imitation French luxury goods giant Louis Vuitton Malletier (LV) wallets.

The company had operated a retail shop in Raffles City Shopping Centre named Cuffz, selling fashion accesories, including wallets bearing the Epi Mark, a trademark of the luxury brand that is characterised by the interleaving ridges and valley, and a recognisable two-tone effect.

In the written judgement this week, Assistant Registrar Edwin San said that the local company was a commercial competitor who "flagrantly dealt in counterfeit goods" and who then "demonstrated a contumelious disregard" of the luxury brand's "intellectual property rights as well as the legal process".

The High Court had, in October 2014, ruled that the company had infringed the luxury brand's Epi Mark under the Trade Marks Act.

A private investigator engaged by LV had visited the shop in January 2014 and purchased a vertical bi-fold wallet that has the Epi Mark for $75.90.

Officers from the Intellectual Property Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department then raided the outlet in February 2014 and seized two wallets. The shop shut down its outlet in May 2014.

LV's lawyer Anthony Soh, said that the local company was "evasive and uncooperative throughout the entire proceedings" and sought the maximum amount of $100,000 in statutory damages.

Mr Soh submitted that the company could have sold at least 100 to 150 units of the infringing goods in Singapore and would have stocked approximately 100 to 250 of such units.

However, Mr San said based on the evidence provided, the figures were "too speculative".

He said the aggravating factor was that the counterfeit items "appears to have its own distinctive brand logo" - two small symmetrical diamond shapes under the words "Cuffz" - which leads to the inference that the company also manufactured the items.

Mr San also said that an infringer cannot be allowed to benefit by "simply folding its cards and walking away from the table scot-free upon the discovery of its infringement".

This is not the first time LV has taken a company to court in Singapore.

In September 2011, LV sued local footwear company Fashion Street for alleged trademark breaches in women's shoes. Retail chains Metro and Takashimaya were also named for selling the products at their stores in 2009.

In December 2009, LV withdrew four criminal charges against watch retailer City Chain for trademark infringement, after accusing the Hong Kong-based company of infringing LV's famed monogram trademark in its line of Solvil et Titus watches. However, judges ruled that the flower design used on the Solvil et Titus watches, while similar, was not identical to LV's flower trademark.

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