Luxury brands seize thousands of fake items in counterfeit crackdown

Major luxury brands including Burberry, Cartier and Louis Vuitton have seized thousands of items from alleged unauthorised traders in a crackdown on counterfeit goods. 

The fashion houses, which also include Hermès, Versace, Tory Burch and Michael Kors, took possession of almost 3,000 fake products in New York last month. 

The defendants, only described as John Does, Jane Does and XYZ Companies, were “doing business” at two locations including “back rooms” and “a basement” as well as two vans, according to court documents.  

The brands, which claimed trademark counterfeiting and infringement of trademarks, went on to demand a preliminary injunction order from the judge, to stop the traders from handling the goods, which was granted on April 5. 

The judge concluded that “the public interest would be best served” by giving the order against the defendants and subsequently allowing the goods to be destroyed. 

“The counterfeit goods seized may be destroyed after the appropriate 10 days’ notice is given [to the authorities],” he said. 

The luxury industry has been waging a war against counterfeiters for years. They are using sophisticated technology to check the products and catch them out.

They have also been lobbying governments to extend enforcement bodies’ powers to seize and destroy fake goods, according to the Harvard Business Review.

The OECD estimates that the volume of international trade in counterfeit and pirated products amounted to as much as $464bn (£355bn) in 2019 or 2.5pc of world trade, with luxury goods accounting for a significant proportion of that sum.

The defendants did not appear at a hearing after they were sent a notice on March 29. 

The brands and their lawyers did not respond to requests for comment. The defendants could not be reached for comment. 

The judge also told the defendants they cannot use dozens of trademarks belonging to the luxury brands. 

These included: Burberry clothing, handbags, wrist watches, sunglasses or cosmetics; jeweller Cartier’s bracelets, brooches, cufflinks or money clips; and Hermès’ famous Birkin bag design, among others. 

In 2020, a Hermès bag set the world record for the most expensive handbag at £230,000. The Hermès Diamond Himalaya Birkin 25 is made of the skin of the Niloticus crocodile found in Africa and is covered in 18k white gold and diamond hardware.

The fashion houses said they seized 348 counterfeit Burberry items, 102 counterfeit Cartier items, 172 counterfeit Hermès items, 2,080 counterfeit Louis Vuitton items, nine counterfeit Polo Ralph Lauren items, 15 counterfeit Michael Kors items, 10 counterfeit North Face items, 17 counterfeit Tory Burch items, and 196 counterfeit Versace items.

LVMH, the owner of Louis Vuitton, reportedly employs dozens of lawyers and spends millions annually pursuing legal action against rogue sellers. 

Before the injunction, the judge added that the “defendants’ actions have caused and will continue to cause immediate and irreparable harm, loss, and damage before a full trial can be held” and that cash compensation was not an adequate relief to the luxury brands for “continuing acts of counterfeiting and trademark infringement”. 

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