Women’s Wear Daily reported Michael Kors’ recent legal victory over several internet websites purported to sell counterfeit Kors apparel. This victory brought the Kors’ camp $2.4M in damages from 35 websites including, MichaelKors-Outlet.net, CheapMichaelKorsOutlet.com and MichaelKorsSale.com, all of which sold handbags, shoes, wallets, belts, eyewear, watches and jewelry bearing the brand’s trademarks. The “merchandise” was offered for sale at comparable price points to authentic Kors products. While this victory is fairly small, monetarily, it is another drop in an increasingly smaller bucket for brands, specifically fashion brands, who are targeting illegal counterfeit sites.
Brands are casting their nets wider than the traditional “Whac-A-Mole” technique of suing individual hosts of illegal websites, only to find themselves in the throws of lengthy litigation, while even more counterfeit sites emerge in the time period. Now brands are implicating search engines such as Google and Yahoo and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, payment service providers such as PayPal are thrown into that litigious pot in order for brands to collect damages from frozen assets of illegal transactions. In other words, these brands are taking increasing measures to protect their brands and to prevent “customer confusion,” a principle that Trademark law is essentially built upon.
And it’s not only the brands who are increasing their weaponry for the war against counterfeits. Organizations such as International Trademark Association (INTA) and the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition are informing the public and brand executives about the risks of online counterfeiting as well as options for bringing down online counterfeit sites. Although there is still much more work to be done to protect brands from being exploited by cybersquatters, the Kors case offers, if nothing else, more precedent for the court system to take note of. Since hosts of these sites are less likely to even involve themselves in litigation, brands are seeing fairly rapid victories.
This case is one small step for the Kors camp and one giant leap for anti-counterfeiting kind.
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