On the heels of the $5.5 million deal that Swap Shop owner Preston Henn reached with Coach over the sale of fake designer goods at his Fort Lauderdale-based flea market, Louis Vuitton has filed suit against him. Henn, who owns what is said to be a massive flea market, called his payout to Coach "pocket change", has been slapped with a trademark infringement and counterfeiting complaint in Florida federal court. Much like Coach, Louis Vuitton's lawyers are seeking millions of dollars in damages from Swap Shop owners, Preston and Betty Henn, alleging that they spent years turning a "willfully blind" eye to vendors selling fake designer goods.
So, how will this lawsuit be different from the one with Coach? Well, according to a statement that Henn, 83, gave to the Sun Sentinel, "He regrets settling the lawsuit with Coach and plans to defend himself in court against the Louis Vuitton allegations."
Turns out, the Henn's Swap Shop is "the place to go" to buy counterfeit items, and according to Harry R. Schafer, Louis Vuitton's Miami-based counsel, the Henn's are well aware of the difference between authentic Louis Vuitton merchandise and the ones their vendors are offering. Schafer said in a statement: "While it does not take an expert to figure out that low-priced, cheap-looking 'Louis Vuitton' items offered for sale at the market do not bear genuine Louis Vuitton trademarks, the Henns — who own numerous genuine Louis Vuitton items — are aware of the price and quality of genuine Louis Vuitton items."
The filing by Louis Vuitton comes after the Paris-based design house's U.S. attorneys sent Henn a cease and desist letter, to which "Mr. Henn responded with a sarcastic letter (to Louis Vuitton's executives, anti-counterfeiting personnel and in-house counsel) about condoms bearing the Louis Vuitton Trademarks."
Moreover, Henn alleges that he has done his part in rectifying the situation by putting up notices and having flyers distributed to every customer and vendor, warning them that no counterfeit items can be sold and that no Louis Vuitton or Coach products of any kind can be offered for sale — even secondhand items that could legally be sold. According to the Sun Sentinel, "Henn said he has also hired two people, including one expert, to check the flea market for counterfeit merchandise. He said he also complied with a 'list of about 15 things' that the French designer group wanted him to do."
Since Henn is apparently prepared to fight this lawsuit out in court, there will certainly be more to come, including discussions centering on the possible vicarious and contributory liability of flea market owners when their vendors are selling counterfeit goods. This translates to the more modern scenario of the role of online market place owners/operators, such as eBay and etsy. So, stay tuned ...