Coach wins landmark case against broker

Coach storefrontLuxury leatherware manufacturer Coach has won $8m in damages from a customs brokerage firm implicated in the import of counterfeit copies of its products.

The jury in the case agreed with Coach's argument that Celco Customs Service Company - and company president Shen Huei Feng Wang - was complicit in the import of fake Coach products which were seized en route at the Port of Los Angeles hub by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents.

The case is seen as significant as it is one of the first times that a customs brokerage has been called to brook for its role in the counterfeit goods trade. The court heard that falsified customs entry documents had been prepared for the intercepted shipment, and that Celco had appropriated the name of a company with a "sterling track record" to aid in the smuggling attempt, according to a Women's Wear Daily report.

Coach has already chalked up a number of successes against other actors in the counterfeit supply chain, notably a $267m judgment last year against hundreds of Internet retail sites, taking down some 570 domain names.

Coach started a concerted campaign against counterfeits in 2009 - called Operation Turnlock - and said recently it has obtained monetary awards from "virtually every link in the chain of counterfeit distribution."

The judgment against Celco and Shen Huei Feng Wang came after three days of deliberations and represents yet another victory in its bid to break the fake product supply chain, although the company is fighting a rearguard action against the fakers.

One of the main issues is that demand for counterfeiting of luxury goods remains buoyant, with a recent survey finding that 75 per cent of women polled had knowingly bought a fake fashion item, with leather goods such as handbags among the most sought-after knock-offs.

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