Apparently, luxury design houses suing individual counterfeit sellers is a thing now. We told you that Louis Vuitton filed two major lawsuits in a Southern Florida federal court against over 1,000 defendants earlier this month, many of which were the operators of domains that sell trademark infringing goods. Also listed as defendants in the suit: individual iOffer sellers. (FYI - iOffer is an online marketplace). Well, as of last week, Gucci is doing the same. The Italian design house's American division filed suit in the Florida Southern District Court against 100 defendants, including both web domains (such as guccisshop.com, googlesunglass.com and hotbrands4u.net) and against individual iOffer merchants. Thanks to some fairly new case law, while filing suit against individual sellers (as well as websites) hawking fake goods is easier than ever, service via Facebook alone is not acceptable.
In a lawsuit that Paris-based design house Chanel filed in a Southern Florida federal court in May against one thousand domains selling counterfeit Chanel wares, Judge Joan A. Lenard allowed the service of the summons and complaint on the defendants via email to the email address associated with the domain. This standard (which may only be allowed where the plaintiff demonstrates that service via email is likely to reach the defendant) remedies a common problem that plaintiffs face in cases against unknown defendants (aka ones hiding before websites) and/or defendants located outside of the U.S. Earlier this year, in case that the Federal Trade Commission brought against a number of Indian defendants, the FTC was allowed to serve the remainder of the documents in the case (additional pleadings, motions, notices) to the defendants via email and Facebook.
More recently, a federal district court in Kansas held that service via Facebook alone is off the table. In Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Carrette, Joe Hand sued Carrette for unlawful broadcasting. After several unsuccessful attempts to serve Carrette, the plaintiff sought permission to serve via Facebook. As of July 13th, the court denied Joe Hand's request, stating that no US court has allowed service via Facebook only, and also cited concerns regarding the reliability of Facebook (stemming from the ability of anyone with an email address to "create a profile using real, fake or incomplete information." So, for the time being service via Facebook is off limits, but considering the fact that publication in a newspaper is sufficient in some instances, service via Facebook will likely be an option in the not-so-distant future.