Less than half of Britto knock-off suit defendants pursue settlement
The attorney for Pop Artist Romero Britto said Thursday that about 60 of the 170 defendants sued nearly eight weeks ago for copyright and trademark infringement violations are in talks to settle the damages they have caused the Miami-based company.
Those who have come forward so far are but a fraction of the group of wholesalers and retailers named in the lawsuit filed Aug. 31 that seeks to stop the tsunami of Britto counterfeits that has flooded the Puerto Rico market over the past year.
Attorney Dora Peñagarícano, partner of the McConnell Valdes law firm, told News is my Business the process has nevertheless been moving along toward the ultimate goal of eliminating scores of Britto knock-off products — including purses, wallets, mugs, umbrellas, watches and articles of clothing— from the local market. That number could reach about 100,000 items, she said.
“Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been sending defendants requests for production of documents, to determine what they had, what they sold, where they got it from and how much they have left in their inventory,” Peñagarícano said.
“We have spoken to about 60 of them and have reached agreements with 20 of them,” she said, noting the law firm has been fielding a steady stream of calls from other defendants also wanting to solve their legal dilemma.
The terms of those settlement agreements are confidential. The final amount of damages that Britto will collect could be made public after the case is over sometime early next year, possibly in April.
“The purpose of these settlement talks is for each one of defendants to pay for their illegal act, to compensate for the damage they have caused,” Peñagarícano said. “What each will pay will depend on their particular economic condition, because while we want them to feel it, we also don’t want to bankrupt them.”
If the talks are successful, those defendants must appear at a pre-trial hearing to file the agreement and have Judge Gustavo Gelpí — who is “fast-tracking” the case — dismiss the complaint against them, she said.
The list of defendants includes retailers and wholesalers of all sizes. One of the biggest retailers on the list is Capri, which at one point had 36,000 Britto knock-off pieces in its inventory. Of that number, the store chain sold 8,965, she said.
“The rest is sitting in boxes, waiting to be picked up,” Peñagarícano said, noting all of the counterfeit pieces are being stored in a warehouse in Carolina, to be destroyed after the case is over.
More defendants could be named
Peñagarícano said the discovery process has exposed more entities that have also allegedly been selling counterfeit Britto goods. Those additional parties will be included in an amended complaint Peñagarícano said will be submitted to the U.S. District Court in Hato Rey by Nov. 17, the next significant date in the process.
During a hearing Wednesday, Gelpí was told there are about 50 plaintiffs who have yet to come forward — or make any type of contact with the law firm — to discuss a resolution to the claim against them. They too have until Nov. 17 to contact McConnell Valdes, she said.
“If they don’t come forward, the judge instructed us to file a motion for default against them, after which he will schedule a hearing to establish damages against each of them. He will determine how much money they will have to pay,” she said.
Finally, Peñagarícano said a number of the defendants named in the complaint have been seen selling the counterfeit goods, in violation of the preliminary injunction Gelpí granted to forbid it. They too will be identified and could face contempt that could lead to jail time, if the judge is so inclined.