Tous sues 177 Puerto Rico retailers over knock-offs
Tous — the Spanish design house known for its emblematic teddy bear — has filed a civil suit against 177 Puerto Rican businesses and individuals that have been allegedly selling counterfeit versions of its products, an illegal activity that has significantly undercut its local sales, News is my Business has learned.
The attorney representing the designer, Dora Peñagarícano, partner of the McConnell Valdés law firm, confirmed to this media outlet that the lawsuit was filed May 15 at the U.S. District Court in San Juan, looking to put an end to the recent explosion of illegitimate Tous products.
“This lawsuit was motivated by a fast proliferation of Tous products on the island that began last year. Tous stores in Puerto Rico complained back to the parent company in Barcelona, telling them about the availability of counterfeit items everywhere,” Peñagarícano said, noting there are six Tous stores doing business locally.
“They [Tous] contacted me because of the Britto case,” she said, referring to the lawsuit filed in September 2011 by the pop artist against some 200 local shops and wholesalers selling knock-offs throughout the island.
The action virtually snuffed out the sale of counterfeit goods emblazoned with Britto’s brightly colored designs in Puerto Rico.
While the Tous filing is sealed, the attorney said it sought — among other things — a temporary restraining order prohibiting the sale of imitation or counterfeit Tous products and the seizure of the counterfeit items. U.S. District Judge Daniel Domínguez granted the petition immediately and scheduled a May 30 hearing, when he is also expected to grant a permanent injunction against the defendants.
With the TRO in hand, U.S. Marshals have seized nearly 8,400 counterfeit articles from stores and flea markets since Saturday, mostly in the form of jewelry and handbags, she said.
While the names of the defendants have not been revealed, the majority of them have been summoned to appear at tomorrow’s hearing. If guilty, the sued parties face fines ranging between $750 and $150,000 per infringement, Peñagarícano explained.
“I expect many of the defendants to appear during Thursday’s hearing and that, as it has happened in previous cases, they agree not to sell the counterfeit items ever again,” she said.
News is my Business learned that the defendant list includes Outlet 66 in Canóvanas, which was sued as a “contributory infringer” for allowing several of its retail tenants to openly sell the fraudulent goods.
Tous has been selling jewelry and accessories — such as bags, watches, perfumes, eyeglasses, textiles and small leather goods — featuring its signature teddy bear since 1920. As of 2012, the company produces 30 annual collections, which are sold in more than 400 stores in 45 countries.