Richemont wins $100m suit against websites selling fakes

Swiss watch detailSwiss luxury goods manufacturer Richemont has been awarded a $100m judgment by a US court in a case brought against websites selling knock-off versions of its products.

The verdict in a New York Federal Court - delivered on Friday January 4 - went against the owners of a series of websites hawking counterfeit versions of Richemont's premier watch brands, including Cartier, Lange Uhren, Officine Panerai, Roger Dubuis, and Alfred Dunhill.

The defendants named in the lawsuit - which was filed at the end of August - are Tony Chen, Fan Bao Dian and the owners of Chinese company Nanyang Technology Co. Ltd, who have not at any time responded to Richemont's lawsuit.

The judgment follows just a few weeks after luxury accessories manufacturer Coach won $257m in damages against hundreds of Internet sites selling fake versions of its products in an Illinois Federal Court.

Earlier this year Coach was awarded $44m in damages being awarded against two New York women who had been selling counterfeit copes of its bags via two websites and eBay. Meanwhile, Hermes and Burberry were awarded $100m apiece in cases centring on websites based in China that were distributing products infringing their trademarks.

As in the earlier cases, the financial award in the Richemont case is mostly symbolic as it will likely be difficult to track down the money from such a fragmented network of operators, although any cash held in the websites' Paypal and other online accounts will be forfeited.

Far more important for Richemont is the disruption to the counterfeiters' operations. As a result of the legal action hundreds of websites will be taken down as a result of the court action, including domain names such as,, and

The judgment prevents the sites from being indexed on search engines or social network sites, and the court said it would hold third-party websites accountable, ordering the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Alibaba, Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Flickr to take down any advertising

Counterfeiting is a major burden on the luxury watch market, which was worth around €35bn ($46bn) in 2012 according to Bain & Company.

Around $1bn a year is lost to counterfeit manufacturers, according to 2010 estimates from Swiss group the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, with around 40m fake watches sold each year compared to 26 million genuine items.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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