Louis Vuitton, Burberry sue over knock-offsSusan Scafidi in The Toronto Star, March 08, 2011
A lawyer for Louis Vuitton and Burberry says a GTA company being sued by the luxury brands for selling knock-offs has shown a “blatant disregard for the law.”
Markham-based Altec Productions is being sued in federal court along with two Vancouver companies, Singga Enterprises Inc. and Carnation Fashion Company, for allegedly infringing on Vuitton’s famous monogram and Burberry’s legendary check, among other trademarks.
The plaintiffs are seeking up to $3 million in damages for trademark and copyright infringement in what could be the “largest anti-counterfeiting judgment in Canadian history,” lawyer Michael Manson told the court Tuesday, the first day of the hearing.
Singga and Altec were involved in large-scale, sophisticated manufacturing operations in China and imported vast amounts of fake goods with the intent of selling them nationwide at stores, gift shows and online, he said.
The lawsuit came after two years of private investigations by the fashion houses.
According to Manson, the two companies had a business arrangement whereby Singga Enterprises placed large orders to the GTA-based company and referred customers to Altec for a commission.
“This is not a one-off sell by some little distributor. . . . (Investigators) were being offered not 10, 20, 50, but 500,” he said, adding that Louis Vuitton and Burberry were not targeting “mom and pop” stores.
Manson said despite the lawsuit, Altec Productions has continued its operations and shown a “blatant disregard for the law” in its attempts to have the hearing delayed. That is in part why the plaintiffs are seeking such high damages.
The Vancouver-based defendants have been more co-operative, lawyers said in court.
Altec and its owners are also named in two ongoing copyright infringement suits brought by designer labels Prada and Juicy Couture.
The owners of Altec Productions or Singga Enterprises were not in court Tuesday, but a request for adjournment was denied.
A paralegal with Toronto-based Mary Lee and Associates requested an indefinite adjournment via videolink on behalf of Monica Mac and Pablo Liang of Altec, saying they’d left Canada to deal with “a last-minute crisis.”
Louis Vuitton’s adoption of a “zero-tolerance” policy in 2004 against fakers has led to more than 13,000 legal actions, 6,000 raids and about 950 arrests, according to the company’s website.
Susan Scafidi, academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School, says Toronto is an obvious hub for distributing knock-off goods. “It completely makes sense to me that Toronto, with a large international community . . . would have a significant number of counterfeits.”
A ruling is expected in a couple of weeks.