Louis Vuitton is suing a popular Atlanta-area indoor flea market for allowing its tenants to allegedly sell counterfeit goods.
In a new lawsuit filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, Ga., the French luxury brand is suing Westgate Discount Mall, and its owners Basirou Kebbay and Aaron Kebe, for creating a “safe haven” for the sale of counterfeit Louis Vuitton merchandise, as well as a host of other well-known brands.
In the court filing, Louis Vuitton stated that the flea market operators “turned a blind-eye” to the activity despite being “repeatedly notified” of the action by the company and are “fully aware” that its tenants were engaged in the sale of counterfeit goods. “In so doing, defendants allowed the sale of such merchandise to flourish on a massive scale to the detriment of Louis Vuitton,” the company alleged.
Specifically, Louis Vuitton stated that it sent Westgate Discount Mall “at least 31 notices” concerning tenants at the market that had attempted to import counterfeit products but had the products seized by US Customs and Border Protection.
What’s more, the company said in court documents that investigators acting on behalf of Louis Vuitton have served “at least 20 cease and desist letters” to tenants of the market who were engaged in the sale of products bearing counterfeit Louis Vuitton trademarks.
Louis Vuitton also cited “numerous occasions” prior to this court filing where law enforcement agencies seized counterfeit items from tenants at the market, including goods bearing counterfeit Louis Vuitton trademarks. In fact, law enforcement has arrested several of the market’s counterfeiting tenants, the company said.
Most recently, on August 18, 2021, Georgia State Police, Fulton County Police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security executed a search warrant on the flea market to search for counterfeit goods, the court documents cited. During the execution of this search warrant, law enforcement searched nearly every booth at the market (60 out of the 62 booths) and seized products bearing counterfeit and infringing trademarks in every single booth searched.
A total of 18 tractor trailer loads of products bearing counterfeit and infringing trademarks were seized during the operation, the court filing said. In all, more than 250,000 products were seized—including over 72,000 items bearing counterfeit and infringing Louis Vuitton trademarks. The fair market value of the counterfeit Louis Vuitton products seized is in the “tens of millions of U.S. dollars,” the luxury brand said.
Court documents also claimed that this August 2021 seizure was “one of the largest seizures of goods bearing counterfeit Louis Vuitton trademarks in U.S. history.”
With this claim, Louis Vuitton is seeking an amount of up to $2,000,000 per counterfeit mark per each type of good as well as profits resulting from the sale of the alleged fake merchandise.
This is the latest action the luxury brand has taken to battle counterfeit merchandise. In 2020, Louis Vuitton uncovered a counterfeit case involving a mole and some “high-tech” fake bags. At the time, Shanghai police arrested 62 criminal gangs for manufacturing and selling counterfeit Vuitton bags, seizing more than 30 sets of counterfeiting equipment, 2,000 counterfeit bags and 100,000-plus pieces of various raw materials worth more than 100 million renminbi, or $14.6 million.
In May, Louis Vuitton was caught up in its own internal counterfeit scandal in China. Last May, Louis Vuitton was ordered by the local court of Furong district of Changsha to compensate a customer who bought a Vaugirard handbag and a small accessory in September 2021 for 22,350 renminbi, or $3,350, from the brand’s boutique in luxury shopping mall Changsha IFS. The bag was later authenticated by a third party as fake.
On top of returning the amount of money the customer spent on the brand, Vuitton was ordered to pay an additional three times the amount of the bag, which was 67,050 renminbi, or $10,050, as a compensation. At the time, the company denied that the brand has ever sold any fake goods through its own retail network, and it never agreed that bag which later turned out to be fake was sold from Louis Vuitton.