LV waits to see if piracy payout is in the bag

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2006, 12:00am

Two of the biggest names in French retailing are waiting for a court to hand down its judgment on a suit brought by luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton against the supermarket chain Carrefour for selling fake handbags at one of its stores in Shanghai.

Louis Vuitton said a Carrefour store was found stocking 40 women's handbags imitating its logo or registered designs in December and has demanded 600,000 yuan in compensation. The fashion house first made a complaint to local authorities after one of its employees discovered the bags.

State media said the bags were priced at about 50 yuan each at Carrefour's Wuning branch. Genuine bags of a similar design sell for 9,000 yuan in Louis Vuitton stores.

Louis Vuitton rejected mediation in the case against Shanghai Lianjia Supermarket Co, Carrefour's joint venture partner in Shanghai, and a hearing was held on Monday in the Shanghai No2 Intermediate People's Court. A court spokesman said the court had yet to make a decision.

Louis Vuitton's spokeswoman in Shanghai, Grace Zhao, said: 'We are waiting for the result. We hope to see a fair judgment.' She declined further comment.

A Carrefour official said the retailer was willing to take responsibility but did not think the compensation figure was acceptable because it was not aware a supplier had delivered counterfeit products.

The official said a Shenzhen-based supplier, which had previously supplied bags carrying its own brand name to Carrefour, bought the fake bags from a Shanghai street vendor after it found itself short of stock.

'It is true that fake bags appeared in our store, but we did not intend this to happen. It is impossible for us to check every product. Perhaps we can only say our staff didn't have much knowledge of luxury products,' he said.

Carrefour requires all suppliers to sign an agreement pledging to provide goods that meet certain standards and respect intellectual property rights.

According to state media, one of the supplier's employees told the court that he bought the fake bags and was not familiar with the Louis Vuitton brand.

However, Louis Vuitton said this was not the first time Carrefour had sold pirated LV products, claiming a similar case occurred in Beijing two years ago.

'It reflects that Carrefour doesn't pay basic attention to its products. Its internal management is very chaotic,' a lawyer representing Louis Vuitton was quoted as saying.