Intellectual Property

Louis Vuitton heads to Federal Court to take on alleged counterfeiters

Engel Schmidl /

Luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton is pursuing a small Australian company in the Federal Court, claiming the company, Sonya Valentine, is selling fake Louis Vuitton goods.

The French brand claims Sonya Valentine had a shipment of fake sunglasses imported this year which bore the trademark “Louis V” and were sold at markets.

The case follows MAC Cosmetics’ claims that Target Australia was selling fake MAC Cosmetics products. But, in this case, Louis Vuitton is taking on a much smaller company.

Louis Vuitton has filed a fast track statement setting out its allegations and the case is listed for a scheduling conference on October 15 before Justice Jessup.

Richard Hoad, partner at law firm Clayton Utz, told SmartCompany counterfeiting has long been a problem for leading brands internationally and court action is required to protect their rights.

“Counterfeiters tend to be individuals or small organisations that try to get under the radar. But even though there may not be a lot of items at stake often brand owners need to make a point,” says Hoad.

He says brands need to protect their rights as intellectual property infringers target those brands which don’t put up a fight.

Hoad says Louis Vuitton could potentially seek damages, an account of profits and potentially additional damages, a deliver up of goods order and injunctions.

Hoad says that for Louis Vuitton it is unlikely to be about the financial penalty.

“It’s really about stopping the conduct happening and sending a message to others not to do the same thing,” he says.

Louis Vuitton’s focus on deterring counterfeits instead of chasing compensation is underlined by a report in The Australian Financial Review that says the luxury retailer is asking for declarations under Australian consumer law and an injunction permanently restraining Sonya Valentine from selling the allegedly fake goods while not bothering to even ask for damages or compensation.

Hoad also says most similar cases tend to settle fairly soon after the proceedings are commenced.

Miriam Stiel, partner at law firm Allens, says counterfeiting is “an ongoing battle” and brand owners have to be vigilant in where they can take action against known counterfeiters.

“The problem has grown over recent years as it is seen as an easy way for people to make illegal money, as it is easier than involvement in drugs and there are lower penalties,” Stiel says.

“There have been reports that have linked people involved in counterfeiting with organised crime.”

Stiel says the Federal Court recognises the seriousness of counterfeiting and has handed down hefty penalties in the past.

“It is very rare that a prison sentence is handed down for this sort of activity but both the Copyright Act and Trademark Act have prison sentences as possible penalties for this sort of activity,” she says.

Stiel says there may be some relief for brand owners from April next year when changes will be made to customs procedures so owners can get customs to seize goods at the point of entry, which will make it much harder to get the goods into the country in the first place.

Louis Vuitton declined to comment and SmartCompany was unable to contact Sonya Valentine.

 

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