The Gucci Group [owned by PPR] and Tiffany & Co. are not messing around. In attempts to fight ongoing Chinese-manufactured knockoffs, the two luxury companies are taking on the U.S. branches of major Chinese banks that allegedly do business with Chinese counterfeiters. Both Gucci and Tiffany's have brought claims in federal court in New York via Robert Weigel of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, who is representing the designers. The parties' allegation: that China Merchants Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (two major Chinese state-owned banks) are maintaining bank accounts for counterfeiters in China, who are responsible for shipping fake designer goods into the U.S.
This suit stems from the findings of earlier suits brought by Gucci and Tiffany's. The Gucci Group (specifically, the Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent brands) brought a suit in the Southern District of New York, which alleged that a group of Chinese individuals and businesses were running websites that sold knockoffs of designer handbags. Judge Deborah Batts issued a temporary restraining order, order the counterfeiters to stop making and selling the knock-offs. The Gucci Group brands were awarded $7.8 million in damages. From this suit, we learned that the counterfeiters had accounts with Bank of China and China Merchants Bank.
Tiffany's also brought a suit against online retailers of counterfeit "Tiffany's" items. Judge William H. Pauley III issued a preliminary injunction against the counterfeiters, but the sale of counterfeits continued. The Chinese banks involved included, Bank of China, China Merchants Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
Now, together Gucci and Tiffany's are taking on China Merchants Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China with a "follow the money" tactic that we have not really seen used very often to stop counterfeiting. Their key allegation: these banks do business with pirates. More to come...