Los Angeles—A federal district court jury only deliberated half a day last week before awarding Coach Inc. $8 million in damages in a counterfeiting case that charged a customers brokerage firm with knowingly and willfully participating in scheme to import fake Coach merchandise.
The case surfaced in 2009 after the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported to Coach that its agents had seized a large shipment of counterfeit Coach handbags and small leathergoods at the Port of Los Angeles.
Coach’s attorneys, who had launched an anti-counterfeiting campaign known as Operation Turnlock, investigated and discovered that the China-based makers of the knock offs conspired with Celco Customs Services Co. of El Monte, Calif. Celco filed fraudulent customs entry documents that allowed the counterfeit Coach products to enter the United States.
Besides its definitive win in the case of Coach Inc. et al v. Celco Customs Services Co. and Shen Huei Feng Wang, Coach scored an important victory in the fight against counterfeiting by holding the customs brokerage firm—which acts as the middle man between importers and customs—accountable.
Nancy Axilrod, vice president and deputy general counsel for Coach, called the case a landmark since “lawsuits against customs brokers are almost nonexistent.”