Hermès is cracking down on fakes in Australia, filing suit against a small chain of Melbourne boutiques for selling counterfeit bracelets. According to Hermès’s lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Australia, EM Style – a Melbourne-based retailer – is allegedly selling leather and enamel bracelets with its distinctive "H" clasp in violation of a number of the Paris-based brand’s federally registered trademarks.
According to Hermès’s complaint, its Australian counsel contacted EM Style on three occasions beginning this September, demanding that the company immediately and permanently cease all sales of bracelets bearing its world famous trademarks. Despite such efforts, Hermès – which is best known for its pricey Birkin and Kelly bags – alleges that EM Style continued to market and offer the bracelets for sale at multiple store locations.
The complaint asserts that the bracelets at issue – which very closely mirror the brand’s $600+ Clic H bracelets – bear trademarks that are "substantially identical or deceptively similar to one or more of the Hermès trademarks. However, unlike legitimate Hermès goods, which are sold exclusively in the brand’s brick-and-mortar stores and on its e-commerce site, the bracelets being sold by EM Style “were not made by or under the license or authority of Hermès.”
As a result, Hermès alleges in its trademark infringement suit that it stands in incur significant damage as consumers are likely to be confused into believing that it is in some way associated or affiliated with or endorses the bracelets bearing its trademarks that are being sold by EM style. The luxury brand is seeking monetary damages and an injunction, a court order that would prohibit EM Style from selling goods bearing its federally registered trademarks.
Not surprisingly, Hermès is not garnering much goodwill among the Australian press after filing suit. To date, most of the articles covering the suit - including one, entitled, "A small Melbourne boutique store is being sued by a mega fashion house" - highlight the difference in size between EM Style and Hermès as a means of suggesting that Hermès is a trademark bully - or a frequent and/or aggressive enforcer of it intellectual property (“IP”). This is interesting, as while there are certainly some very litigious luxury brands, Hermès is not necessarily one of them.
In fact, Hermès, by all accounts, is one of the less aggressive luxury brands, filing barely a handful of IP infringement lawsuits in 2016 in the U.S. Chanel, in comparison, filed 40. Louis Vuitton filed 13; Coach filed 12. It is worth noting that it is a trademark holder's duty to police unauthorized uses of its trademarks; with that in mind, Hermès is absolutely within its right here. As for whether EM Style poses a large enough threat to Hermès to warrant litigation is another matter entirely.