Just yesterday, we told you that Louis Vuitton filed suit against similarly-named company, Louis V, for trademark infringement. Well, the Paris-based design house’s outside counsel has filed two additional trademark infringement lawsuits in a Southern Florida federal court this week against quite a few defendants … over one thousand to be exact. Infringing domains, such as louisvuittonusa.com and esalelouis.com, are among those commonly sued by Louis Vuitton (and other trademark owners), but these two lawsuits also include a large amount of individual iOffer users. In case you’re not familiar, iOffer is a San Francisco-based online trading community that consists almost entirely of China-based sellers hawking fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, and just about any designer good you can think of.
It is interesting that Louis Vuitton is targeting individual iOffer sellers, such as donna1918, wangwang20120, and happygirl2013, for selling counterfeit accessories, as opposed to iOffer itself. You may recall that designer brands have targeted online marketplace sites in the past, such as Tiffany & Co. v. eBay, but not individual sellers.
While iOffer boasts a seller verification program, I’m not terribly familiar with the information that sellers must provide when signing up on iOffer (aside from the mandatory credit card verification) and thus, the relative ease with which these sellers’ actual identities and locations can be determined to force them to show up in court and face their punishment. Also worth noting, iOffer is not associated with PayPal, and so, it is not clear if/how payments may be seized from these sellers if the goods at issue are, in fact, found to be counterfeits. As a result of Operation in Our Sites, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement works with PayPal to attempt to seize funds associated with the individuals selling counterfeit goods.
Chances are, the vast majority of the individual sellers will not be identified and even if they are, they will not be located. As a result, their individual shops within iOffer will be shut down (thanks to a court order) and if the Department of Justice, in connection with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, can locate funds that these sellers have amassed from the sale of such counterfeits, they will be turned over the Louis Vuitton. The result of this lawsuit should provide some helpful guidance regarding litigation involving individual online marketplace sellers. More to come …