Flea market owners liable for sale of fake Coach products

Coach storefrontCoach has won $5.5m in damages against Florida flea market Swap Shop for selling counterfeit versions of its products.

The ruling - the latest in a clampdown on counterfeiting by the upscale clothing and accessories manufacturer - for the first time held that the owners of the property which houses the Fort Lauderdale flea market shared liability for the fakes sold there.

Just over a year ago a preliminary ruling found that the individuals directly selling the knockoffs were accountable, but the owners of the land were not "vicariously liable" as Coach's legal representation had argued.

Now, the latest verdict sets a precedent that could prove costly to other owners or lessors of property used to sell counterfeits, and reinforces an earlier ruling - in July 2013 - that the operator of a Memphis area flea market was similarly liable. The judgment in that case was $5m in damages based on wilful infringement of 21 of Coach's trademarks.

Coach has a policy to target multiple elements in the supply chain for counterfeits and also chalked up another precedent-setting victory in 2013 when it successfully sued a customs brokerage for its facilitating role in the fake goods trade, winning $8m in damages.

Later the same year, it also won a suit against now-closed Indiana boutique the Treasure Shop after successfully debunking the owners' defense, which rested on the premise that the low quality and bargain price of the fakes made it obvious they were counterfeit so customers would be aware they were buying copies. Poor quality was deemed to be no protection against trademark infringement.

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