Hermès French luxury goods manufacturer is suing Birkin Bag Imitators for trademark and trade dress infringement, unfair competition and dilution by tarnishment. The case Hermès International v. Emperia, Inc. et al., 14-CV-03522 (C.D. Cal. 2014), was filed on the 7th may against Emperia, Inc., Anne-Sophie, Inc. and Top’s Handbag, Inc. for selling infringing knockoffs of the iconic Hermès Birkin bag to online retailers Charming Charlieand JustFab.
The Hermès Birkin bag, has been described as one of the most famous handbags in the world and in 2012, Hermès unveiled four new diamond-studded Birkin handbags, 2 years in the making, designed by Pierre Hardy, each worth around $1.9 Million. The Birkin handbag, has evolved into a stylish symbol of wealth over the years. While a brand-new Birkin is priced by the French fashion house at around $8,000, some models are so expensive there is a waiting list. Some bags even come with feet, like this bag that sold at auction for $125,000, with the most expensive, the Hermès Diamond with Gold Birkin bag selling at auction for $203,150, last year.
Renowned and respected British fashion commentator Colin McDowell in an article over at the Business of Fashion, late last year commented that “astronomically priced products are emblematic of exactly what’s wrong with the fashion business.” While, the Goss-IPgirl is reserved to agree, whatever happened to what Tom Ford found – “and we found after much research that, actually not much research, quite simple research, that the counterfeit customer was not our customer.” In other words, that luxury fashion brands are not that concerned in going after fast fashion counterfeit retailers?
The Defendants accused handbags seen below sell at wholesale prices of between $15.00 and $20.00, and Hermès argue that by their actions the Defendants have sought to take unfair advantage of the fame and reputation of the Birkin Bag, by leading people to believe that Plaintiff has engaged in the licensing of the design of its handbag in connection with inexpensive goods, so as to tarnish Plaintiff’s reputation for quality and commercial integrity.
Despite the high price of the Birkin Bag, Hermès argue that it is generally recognised by consumers due to considerable coverage by the press and its inclusion in story lines of television shows, such as Sex and the City.It is argued by the French manufacturer, that because of the enormous sales, extensive advertising and media coverage, the Birkin Bag’s has become so distinctive its shape has acquired secondary meaning and developed into a famous trademark.
It is argued by the French brand, that the design configuration of the Birkin Bag has become so well-recognised that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has determined that it acquired sufficient distinctiveness to merit a registration. The shape of the bag is a registered trademark here.
According to the complaint, Emperia, began taking orders from the online retailer Just Fabulous, Inc. (“JustFab”), which does business as JustFab.com, for a handbag which closely imitated thedesign of the Hermès Birkin Bag, shipping over 3000 units of this knockoff Birkin Bag to JustFab. Despite allegedly receiving cease and desist letters, and actual knowledge of the rights of Hermès in the Birkin Bag trademark the Defendants continued to expand and sell additional knockoff designs.
Another interesting case for the world of Fashion and IP. Hermès is seeking injunctive relief, damages, statutory treble damages, costs, and accounting of profits.