5 April 2017Trademarks

Coach cleared in defamation suit with alleged counterfeiter

An online retailer who was accused of selling counterfeit Coach handbags but was later cleared has lost a defamation lawsuit she brought against the luxury brand.

Brenda Buschle, the owner of Designer Handbags Rescue, filed her claim at the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in April last year, alleging that Coach had defamed her by naming her in a “baseless” suit.

Coach had filed a trademark infringement claim in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against Buschle and other defendants.

The company argued that the defendants were online counterfeiters, based in China, who had sold unauthorised or unlicensed products featuring Coach’s trademarks.

Coach had requested a restraining order under the Lanham Act to seize the defendants’ websites.

The brand took control of Buschle’s website in April 2015, allegedly locking her out of the site and posting a notice that said it had been shut down for selling counterfeits.

The website, designerhandbagrescue.com, had sold Coach handbags at a “significant discount”, according to the March 28 order granting the motion to dismiss the defamation suit.

According to Buschle’s claim, Coach returned the domain to her after her attorney contacted the brand, and Coach removed her from the lawsuit.

She added that a number of customers who had previously purchased handbags had returned their items and cancelled, and in January last year she shut down the website because of low profits.

But Judge Michael Barrett dismissed the suit, holding that the Ohio district court didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear the case.

“Plaintiff’s business was conducted solely on the internet. While plaintiff’s address in Ohio was listed on the website, defendants explain that China-based counterfeiters often use false names and addresses to appear that they are located in the US,” said Barrett.

He added that Ohio was not the “focal point” of the information posted on the website and that Buschle had not indicated that any of the visitors to the site during the time it was seized were from Ohio.

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