Coach Inc., the high-end leather handbag manufacturer, recently took the City of Chicago to court, due to knockoff products being available for sale at the New Maxwell Street Market, an open-air flea market.
The New York-based company filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Chicago in late May, after investigating the market in August 2009 and witnessing more than 300 vendors selling “counterfeit Coach products in plain view,” according to Reuters. This initiative was part of “Operations Turnclock,” a nationwide program aimed at targeting companies or individuals with civil litigation who are trading or selling knockoff Coach products. The Chicago case is the only precedent that involves a municipality.
Two weeks later, in conjunction with the Chicago police, an investigator revisited the infamous flea market now located near the West Side Desplaines. There was a counterfeit $18 “Coach” handbag purchased from one booth and a fake $24 “Chanel” handbag from another booth, the lawsuit said. Both vendors were arrested and 351 fake Coach products were identified at their stalls, the lawsuit said.
The largest U.S. maker of luxury leather handbags claimed that Chicago has not followed protocol to cease the illegitimate sales, which have continued into 2010. Allegedly, the cease-and-desist notice to the city in December 2009 stated Chicago’s responsibility “to compel its cooperation in ending the infringing conduct.”
The lawsuit requests a federal injunction that also includes the defendants from selling the fake Coach items and claims that the company has experienced “irreparable injury.” Coach is demanding that all fake products be turned over to the company. The luxury brand is seeking $2 million in damages per counterfeit item located at the market, including punitive damages, and a ruling to ban further improper sales.