Finally sat down to read the High Court judgment on Louis Vuitton Malletier’s suit against City Chain — working through the entire judgment was way more exciting than reading about it in the papers!
If you like lawspeak: LV sued CC for trademark infringement, in the tort of passing off, and for dilution of its well-known marks. Point is, CC infringed LV’s “Flower Quatrefoil” and “Flower Quatrefoil Diamond” (read: Monogram) trademarks with its ‘Solvil’ line of watches, and had to pay for it.
If all you’ve heard is “CC infringed LV’s trademark” and nothing else, here are some of the juicy details. Hong Kong-based Louis Vuitton Pacific Ltd discovered that the “Solvil” watches were sold in CC outlets in China. It then ordered checks on branches in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, HK, KL, and Singapore. Trap purchases were made, followed by coordinated enforcement raids against CC outlets in China, Malaysia and SG. In Singapore, LV’s private investigators visited and purchased watches from CC outlets at Marina Square, Suntec City, Plaza Singapura, and The Central.
So the usual wrangle started in court, and one of CC’s contentions was that Perlini’s Silver, Mintmark & Co, Citigems, and even Van Cleef & Arpels had also used the Quatrefoil flower. To this, LV replied that action should be taken against them too. Ha! Had to single out this bit because it was rather amusing.
LV also sued CC in the tort of passing off: basically you sue others that copy your work, and claim money for it. To succeed in this cause, LV had to prove
(ii) Misrepresentation; and
(iii) Likely damage to the brand.
In a nutshell, goodwill is the good reputation of the business that causes people to associate the product with the company. For example, we see the monogram, and we think Ah! Louis Vuitton! If we see a swoosh, we think Ah! Nike! In court, the judge agreed that LV had substantial goodwill and reputation in Singapore.
LV alleged that CC had intentionally copied the design and meant to mislead the public. The court agreed. Pity I missed the hearing; this part sounds very claws-out:
The plaintiff (LV) postulated that in a bid to improve its performance in China where its business was making a loss, the defendant deliberately designed a range of watches that were “look-alikes” with the plaintiff’s watches in order to attract middle-class young Chinese consumers who were brand-conscious and aspired to own the plaintiff’s products but might not be able to afford them yet.
(iii) Likely damage to the brand
LV’s watches ranged $4,000 – $6,000 while the “Solvil” lookalikes cost $200 — people thinking of buying LV watches were likely to be put off by the fact that cheap lookalikes existed in the market. I think we all understand where they are coming from.
So, LV won its case, which means… Damages! At least, insofar as CC doesn’t take it up to the Court of Appeal. I should think not. If they do, however, I’m definitely worming my way in to watch. This is just way too fascinating.
(Image credit: Fashionphile)