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Weekly Issues In The News

By Geisa Balla


Coach Inc. was awarded a permanent injunction and $44 million verdict against Linda and Courtney Allen of Syosset, New York, who operated websites BellaFashions.net and MyClassyFashion.com, advertising and selling counterfeit Coach handbags. Southern District of New York Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that the Allens had "willfully" violated Coach's trademarks on 11 types of goods for a total of 22 separate infringements. The websites maintained by the Allens state that the items are "not original" and are "in no way affiliated with the authentic manufacturers." Linda Allen was similarly sued by Chanel in 2007 for trademark counterfeiting and infringement. "Linda Allen plainly requires substantial deterrence because she has not been deterred by prior judgments," Judge McMahon told the court. "She persists in her contumacious behavior. This award may be crippling, but it is plainly needed to prevent Allen from going back once again into the business of counterfeiting." Nancy Axilrod, Coach's deputy general counsel, stated that Coach was exceedingly pleased with the ruling, and added: "The decision in Coach v. Linda Allen, et al. should serve as a warning to defendants in all pending Coach lawsuits that courts consider counterfeiting a serious issue and are prepared to order defendants to pay large sums of money. This decision should also serve as notice to all who traffic in counterfeit goods that Coach will vigorously pursue you, and will win."


Modern Family

The cast of the award-winning TV show "Modern Family" filed suit against the show's production company, 20th Century Fox Television, on July 24, 2012 for violating their work contracts under California law. The lawsuit is largely seen as a negotiation tactic for higher pay. The show's stars Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles in a legal move to void their current contracts. Ed O'Neill later joined the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged: "Modern Family has been a breakout critical and financial success. That success, however, has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts." The complaint said the current contracts for Ferguson, Bowen, Burrell and Stonestreet violated a California law that limits personal service contracts to no longer than seven years. After starting in January 2009, most of actors' deals were set to run until June 2016, making them illegal, the lawsuit said. One source says that the actors were offered $150,000 per episode with a $50,000 bonus per episode for the upcoming fourth season and $200,000 for the fifth season. A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox had no comment on the lawsuit, but confirmed that a table read was canceled on Tuesday, when the cast was to return to production in preparation for the fourth season of the show.


Lady Gaga

MGA Entertainment Inc, the maker of Bratz Dolls, filed a lawsuit against Lady Gaga and her management company in New York Supreme Court alleging breach of contract for failing to approve a line of dolls in the singer's image. The complaint alleges that it agreed to produce dolls in Lady Gaga's image in December 2011 at the "request and insistence" of Bravado International Group, a merchandising company that works with Lady Gaga. MGA claims that it paid Bravado $1 million in advance for the doll production. In April Bravado allegedly informed MGA that Lady Gaga wanted to delay production of the dolls until her new album is released in 2013. MGA says the defendants have continued to withhold final approval in order to delay marketing the dolls until next year and instead sell a licensed Lady Gaga perfume called "Fame." "Defendants' conduct is egregious, in bad faith and is pretextual, especially in light of the fact that MGA has, among other things, paid Bravado a $1,000,000 advance, agreed to an excessively generous royalty rate, invested millions in the preproduction of the Lady Gaga dolls and put its reputation and goodwill on the line in order to secure distributors and retail shelf space," MGA Entertainment said in the complaint.



Gucci Group filed a lawsuit against the great-grandson of Gucci's original founder, Guccio Gucci and his brother Alessandro, for using the name "Guccio Gucci" when marketing their own handbags and accessories firm ToBeG Srl. Gucci's original founder was also named Guccio Gucci. The court has found Guccio in the wrong, ruling that the name usage "constitutes an act of unfair competition to Gucci's detriment because the advertising materials of the defendant caused confusion with Gucci's products and business activities and took unfair advantage of the qualities and reputation of Gucci's products." In the past, Gucci Group has successfully sued family members Jennifer Gucci, Gemma Gucci, Cosimo Gucci, and Elisabetta Gucci for all trying to start companies using their own names.


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