LVMH’s Louis Vuitton Challenges Copycat Bag Imports

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the world’s largest luxury-goods maker, filed a U.S. trade complaint seeking to block U.S. imports from China of handbags, luggage and other accessories that copy the Louis Vuitton look.

Some Chinese companies are infringing trademarks “through a systematic copying of Louis Vuitton product lines, bag styles and overall identity,” the company said in a complaint filed Dec. 3 with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington.

LVMH, based in Paris, has been aggressive in trying to curtail the amount of counterfeit goods that copy its luxury brands. It sued EBay Inc., claiming the online auction company didn’t work hard enough to prevent sales of knockoffs on its site. Japan’s biggest online retailer, Rakuten Inc., signed a deal with LVMH in September on plans to combat counterfeiting.

Louis Vuitton has “invested tens of millions of dollars and decades of time and effort to create consumer recognition” of the LV mark, the company said in the ITC complaint.

LVMH said in October that Louis Vuitton helped propel sales at its fashion and leather-goods unit 26 percent in the third quarter. The unit generated 6.3 billion euros ($8.24 billion) in sales last year, or 37 percent of the company’s revenue.

In the ITC case, Louis Vuitton is seeking an order from the trade commission that would ban all imports of counterfeit Louis Vuitton products. It claims a Chinese couple who live in Arcadia, California, have set up a series of shell companies in China and the U.S. to make and sell the knockoffs in what Louis Vuitton called “well organized and deceptive scams.”

Selling Knockoffs

The complaint also cites businesses in the U.S. that it contends are selling counterfeits. The ITC has the power to issue an order blocking imports of the copycat products regardless of the name of the company selling them.

Mark Ramsey, owner of Alpha One Sourcing LLC, which runs the Inspired Bagger website in Dallas said he hasn’t bought handbags from the manufacturers or importers named in the complaint and doesn’t know why his site, which sells 3,000 different styles, was listed.

“We don’t claim to sell Louis Vuitton,” he said in a telephone interview. “We say they are ‘designer-inspired,’ but we don’t mention a name. We never wanted to dabble in that. We know the seriousness of it.”

Crack Down

The websites named in the ITC complaint weren’t among the 82 domain names shut down last month by the U.S. Justice Department in a crack down on online sales of fake brand-name goods. Efforts to reach the California couple and other companies named in the complaint were unsuccessful.

Louis Vuitton, which said its monogram was created in 1896 to “deter imitators,” initiated an average of 39 raids a day in 2009 and seized thousands of counterfeit products, according to a fact-sheet the company distributed. The company said it sells its product only in Louis Vuitton stores or through the company’s website.

The complaint is In the Matter of Certain Handbags, Luggage, Accessories and Packaging Thereof, Complaint No. 2772, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net

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