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Former San Juan retailer slapped with $150K federal counterfeiting fine

The US District Court in Puerto Rico has slapped former retailer 24K El Russo & Co. with three fines totaling $150,000 for selling counterfeit Cartier-brand jewelry at its Plaza Las Américas store, which is now closed, News is my Business confirmed.

In his order, US District Judge Jay A. Gregory-García decided in favor of the claim filed by Cartier International’s legal firm McConnell Valdés, represented Attorney Dora Peñagarícano.

“The US Customs and Border Protection protects businesses and consumers through an aggressive Intellectual Property Rights enforcement program confiscating counterfeit goods that are imported into Puerto Rico via international mail or courier. However, despite these efforts, many counterfeit items do arrive to the people and stores that sell them in Puerto Rico and that is when we, the attorneys, must act against the counterfeiters,” said Peñagarícano.

“This time, it was a store in Plaza Las Américas that was selling counterfeit Cartier jewelry but, as in all the other cases, they were caught, and a judgment was issued against them ordering to pay Cartier the amount of $150,000. As you can see, counterfeiting doesn’t pay. We urge everyone not to sell, not to purchase counterfeit products. These products infringe the trademarks and the copyrights of the owners and are often hazardous and manufactured with toxic materials and harmful chemicals,” the attorney said.

The case is a civil action arising under the Copyright Act of 1976, through which Cartier, a jewelry and watch company engaged in the business of designing, manufacturing and worldwide merchandising of high-end jewelry under the Cartier and other related brands, went after the retailer for selling counterfeit rings and bracelets in April 2019.

At the time, Cartier sought a preliminary injunction and damages — among other claims — and a month later the court issued a temporary restraining order, a seizure order and ordered 24K El Russo & Co. to appear at a hearing on May 16, 2019.

“On May 14, 2019, counsel for [Cartier] spoke with Roberto Colón, the owner of 24K, who acknowledged that the seized articles were counterfeit Cartier products, agreed to not sell any such products in the future, and consented to the issuance of a preliminary injunction against 24K,” according to the court’s decision released March 4, 2022.

Right after that meeting, Cartier began settlement discussions with the retailer through which Colón allegedly agreed to stop selling any counterfeit products in Puerto Rico and the United States and agreed to pay Cartier the amount of $50,000 in two installments to compensate for the infringements to the trademarks.

In June 2019, McConnell Valdés sent Colón a settlement agreement, which was to be signed and returned, but was not, according to the latest court order.

In November 2019 — seven months after the complaint went unanswered — Cartier asked the court to declare the defendant in default. In several instances in early 2020, the court ordered 24K El Russo & Co. to permanently stop imitating, manufacturing, or selling counterfeit Cartier products.

The jewelry maker asked the court for statutory damages of $50,000 for selling counterfeit bracelets with the “Love” mark; $50,000 for selling counterfeit rings with the “Love” mark; and $50,000 for selling counterfeit bracelets with the “Juste Un Clou” mark, for a total of $150,000.

Because the Plaza Las Américas store has closed, it is unclear if or when it will pay the damages.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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