Burberry wins a significant anti-counterfeiting lawsuit

January 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

“Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Ms. Roosevelt’s suggestion is undeniably eloquent, but at first pass it may seem a bit off. When we hear the word “justice,” it’s natural to think of a two-sided equation: Party A, who has been wronged, demands that justice be served, while Party B, the toe-stepping group, does their darnedest to avoid being served. So while justice, in both concept and practice, balances the scale, it seems that it does so by only benefitting Party A.

The upside of the justice system is obvious. But while it helps compensate for and defend against damages–pay for your crimes with cash, time, or both–it seems like the slighted are the only ones who experience the upside. So how can it “be for both” then?

The latest example of anti-counterfeiting justice occurred this past Tuesday, January 19th when U.S. District Court Judge Paul Crotty found a New York-based importer and online dealer guilty of peddling sham goods and awarded Burberry $1.5 million in damages.

In 2005, Designer Imports, Inc. entered into an agreement with Burberry not to sell counterfeit goods on its site. Two years later, Burberry sued the company after discovering fake versions of its products for sale on the same site. Burberry’s investigators found what they claimed were 14 examples of phony goods.

Five years later, the presiding judge agreed that 12 of the items were counterfeit and penalized the offending company. At $100,000 per violation plus attorneys’ fees, Designer Imports, Inc. has been ordered to pay Burberry $1.5 million, though the brand had originally sought $6.5 million. And while the settlement bars the offender from selling any more faux goods, the company is allowed to continue selling legit items on its site.

When we consider this recent example, Ms. Roosevelt’s meaning becomes a bit clearer. It may be quickly summed as ‘justice in, justice out.’ She was referring to fair punishment.

The process which penalizes the peddlers of counterfeit goods is designed to correct a specific wrong and to set things right again, but it can not exceed its mandate by delivering an unjust sentence. Burberry received 23% of its original request and Designer Imports was allowed to remain open, but was there justice on both sides of the equation? Was the punishment fair?

We certainly think so and congratulate Burberry and their diligent inspectors for ensuring that the counterfeiters know what lies in store for them. Ms. Roosevelt’s statement is clearer for their efforts.

We hope that future justices keep in mind that these cases are about something bigger than dollar amounts – lives brutalized by the production process of bogus goods cannot be quantified.

We do not ask that the two-sided type of justice advocated by Ms. Roosevelt be denied in the cases of criminals punished for these abuses, but we do demand that those responsible for punishing them always keep the big picture in mind.

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