Lacoste Suing Beijing Market Over Knock-Off Sales

Sports and leisure clothing group Lacoste SA, best known for its crocodile logo, has sued a popular market in Beijing for allegedly selling knock-offs of its products, an attorney for the French firm said on Monday.

Lacoste is seeking 100,000 yuan ($12,476) in compensation from each of five retailers in the Silk Market, with the landlord also named as a defendant, said Paul Ranjard, partner at law firm Adamas in Beijing.

"Lacoste has filed a lawsuit against a few vendors of the Silk Market and the case has just been accepted and registered by the court," Ranjard said. "The Silk Market is selling absolutely fake Lacoste shirts."

News of the lawsuit, which was filed in February, came as the European Union last week urged China to crack down on piracy or risk seeing its soaring exports to the European Union subject to new punative measures.

The Lacoste lawsuit is the latest in a string of similar cases against the Silk Market, an institution in Beijing both among local expatriates and international tourists.

Another 23 international brands are part of a similar separate suit that is still pending, said Joseph Simone, partner with Baker & McKenzie, who represents the companies.

"What we're hoping is that when other companies that are not part of this coalition start using the same strategies, landlords will start realising it's better to cooperate," he said. "Otherwise they'll just end up in lots of civil actions."

In yet another action last September, five other luxury brands — Burberry (BRBY.L), Chanel, Gucci (PRTP.PA), Louis Vuitton (LVMH.PA) and Prada — jointly filed a lawsuit against Xiushui Haosen, owner of the Silk Market, and five of its stall holders.

The companies later won a total 100,000 yuan in compensation.

The market last week promised to evict tenants who were found violating the intellectual property rights of the companies.

The European Union and United States have maintained pressure on China to combat counterfeits, which U.S. software and entertainment firms say costs them $2.5 billion a year.

($1=8.0154 Yuan)