A US District Court judge awarded fashion designer Alexander Wang $90 million in damages in a trademark counterfeiting and cybersquatting case against 50 defendants who run 459 websites. The court froze the defendants’ websites and transferred their domain names to Wang.
Unfortunately, since most of the domain owners are nearly impossible to locate (and none of them showed up in court), Wang will likely never get the $90 million in damages. Cybersquatters often use fake names and bogus information in domain name registrations, leaving the courts to award default judgments. This fact was echoed in WWD’s report that a spokesperson for Wang said, “The court system regularly awards very large amounts for the symbolic significance, as a means of deterring other individuals and parties. In other words, Alexander Wang is unlikely to receive $90 million.”
According to The Fashion Law, Operation in Our Sites, enables US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to work with partner organizations, like PayPal, to seize funds from accounts associated with defendants and websites selling counterfeit goods. But, since many domain owners are aware of this effort, they constantly move most of their money out of online accounts, leaving only small amounts behind available for seizure.
The websites named in the lawsuit had been selling counterfeit Alexander Wang handbags, footwear, apparel, and accessories and using the Alexander Wang brand name in their domains, including alexanderwangroccobag.com and alexandwangsale.com. The design of some of the websites even resembled Wang’s own e-commerce site.
This is Wang’s first lawsuit against counterfeiters. The brand’s chief principle officer, Dennis Wang, said: “Protecting our brand requires maintaining constant vigilance on a global scale as well as taking proactive measures such as sending cease and desist orders directly to domestic and foreign counterfeiters as well as contacting website servers that host counterfeit sites.”
Harley Lewin, an attorney who represents Alexander Wang and other global brands in counterfeiting cases, told The Wall Street Journal that Alexander Wang “prefers to avoid confrontation and resolve matters amicably” but the company became frustrated by the number of fake products being sold online, particularly in China. “After years of playing the whac-a-mole game, (Alexander Wang) decided to move in a more aggressive fashion as the counterfeiting of his goods had increased along with his own growth,” Lewin told the WSJ.
The scourge of online counterfeit goods continues. Just last month it was announced that as of January 1, 2017, Birkenstock will remove all of its products from Amazon due to the large number of counterfeit products sold through the online marketplace. If your brand doesn’t have an effective way to deal with counterfeiters and bogus resellers, Corsearch Market Vigilance can help you identify and take down reputation and revenue-damaging listings from online marketplaces. Visit our website to find out more about Corsearch Market Vigilance.