Coach Inc., the maker of luxury handbags and accessories, is suing 13 shops on the boardwalk in Ocean City for selling cheaper knock-offs of its items.
A company investigator entered the stores over a two-day period in June and bought counterfeit handbags, wallets and accessories for prices ranging from $20 to $75, according to the lawsuits, which were filed Monday in federal court in Baltimore. Authentic Coach handbags in a similar style are typically priced at around $300, according to Coach's website.
Coach's lawsuits against the Ocean City shops come amidst its nationwide campaign, now in its second year, to crack down on the sale of imitation products. Last May, the company kicked off "Operation Turnlock," a zero-tolerance civil litigation program targeting producers, wholesalers and retailers of Coach fakes.
The New York-based company is now actively fighting the illegal trade of knock-offs of its brand in dozens of lawsuits against stores across the country, from Los Angeles to New York, this year, according to federal court records.
A Coach spokeswoman was preparing a response for later this afternoon to questions from The Baltimore Sun. Coach and other big-name brands, from Chanel to Louis Vuitton, routinely work with federal and local law enforcement to fight a brisk trade in counterfeit luxury goods, many of which originate from China. But in at least one case this year, Coach decided to sue a municipality – Chicago – for not doing enough to crack down on street vendors selling Coach counterfeit goods at a city-run public market.
According to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, a nonprofit based in Washington, the worldwide trade in counterfeit goods amounts to about $600 billion a year. In the U.S. last year, Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year seized $260 million worth of counterfeit goods.
The top categories of seized counterfeit goods included footwear, consumer electronics, apparel, computer hardware, pharmaceuticals, and toys and electronic games, according to the federal agencies.
In its investigation in Ocean City, Coach alleges that the shops sold handbags, wallets, key chains and wristlets.
The shops named in the lawsuits include: Maytalk; Beach Break; Hot Topik; Ocean Reef; Summer Breeze; Surf Beachwear; The Fashion Shop; Ocean Waves; Sunset Beachwear; New York New York; Jewel of the Ocean; Oceanfashion Boutique; and Sunglass City.
The Baltimore Sun left messages for management at the locations. A manager at Oceanfashion Boutique, who declined to give her name, denied that the shop sold Coach counterfeit products.
Coach is seeking $2 million in damages for each counterfeit violation at each store or, alternatively, a court order for the store owners to pay Coach all of the profits earned from the sale of the items.