Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong shoemaker sued by fashion brands Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga for copyright infringement

Two fashion houses claim unspecified damages from Gi Gi Shoes & Handbags

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 8:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 8:45pm

A famous Hong Kong shoemaker was on Wednesday sued by international fashion houses Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga over an alleged copyright infringement.

The two brands demanded an unspecified sum of damages as well as court injunctions to restrain Ng Chung-fu of Gi Gi Shoes & Handbags from infringing their original artistic works, and sought court orders for the delivery or destruction of all infringing products.

But Ng’s son, Desmond, told the Post that he felt “helpless” because they had already removed the relevant products from shelves upon receiving complaints of infringement, which he said they had been unaware of in the first place.

“We are not the maker [of those products],” the younger Ng said. “We had no intention to manufacture products to infringe others’ trademarks.”

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His father, who founded the company 43 years ago, was unavailable for comment due to poor health.

Ng faces two separate legal actions mounted by Bottega Veneta SA and Bottega Veneta Hong Kong on one hand; and Balenciaga and Balenciaga Asia Pacific on the other.

The concerned copyrighted products include Bottega Veneta’s signature Stretch Knot Clutch, Veneta Bag and Fiandra Slipper; and Balenciaga’s Classic Metallic Edge Money.

The younger Ng recalled that this was the first time that his father’s shop was sued for an alleged copyright infringement.

“It is our long-standing attitude to respect copyrights,” he said. “But it’s hard to keep tabs on all the products from so many brands, what we can do is to remove the problematic products from shelves and investigate the matter upon receiving complaints.”

A notice from the shop’s official website stated: “Our company cannot sell any counterfeit products.”

Guangzhou-born Ng came to Hong Kong in 1949 and worked as a shoemaker on Des Voeux Road Central before he started his own business at Wong Nai Chung Road in Happy Valley, which used to be the city’s well-known “Shoe Street”.

Ng offered shoes, some of them custom-made, catered to the shape of local feet as well as the Japanese and the Europeans.

His clientele ranged from neighbours to high-ranking officials, who reportedly include the former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang.

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But the shoemaker and the rest of his trade were driven out of “Shoe Street” by a string of property agencies in 2015.

Their current store, situated in Causeway Bay, will close by the Lunar New Year next month.