Coach Wins Trademark Infringement Case While Awaiting Outcome Of Class Action Lawsuit

By Joseph Mandour on June 12, 2012

keychain_rings-thumb-200x156-43191 Orange County – In a decision recently handed down by a federal jury, Siskiyou Buckle Company was ordered to pay $75,000 in damages to Coach, the popular leather goods manufacturer.

The lawsuit, originally filed last year in New York, concerned trademark infringement of a key chain. The accessory featured an insignia that was a confusingly similar copy of the sideways “C” logo sold by the famous purse maker. The court handed down the order for damages along with an injunction preventing further sales of the offending products. The “knock-off” product was ordered from a Chinese manufacturer for Siskiyou’s largest customer, The Hillman Group. The infringing products were sold to Wal-Mart and Lowe’s Companies. Coach also sued Hillman and received an undisclosed settlement in that lawsuit.

Siskiyou Buckle Company is based in Medford, Oregon, and has been in the business of creating belt buckles, buttons, pins, fasteners, costume jewelry, toys and hobby goods for over 35 years. Siskiyou has produced its best selling belt buckles for such well-known names as Harley Davison, Elvis and General Motors. Despite its loss in court, Siskiyou denied any infringement of the Coach products and claims that it lost $131,000 dollars in the deal with The Hillman Group.

The win for Coach against Siskiyou comes on the heels of several significant class action lawsuits against the popular New York purveyor of purses. In 2008, Coach settled a class-action lawsuit for violating a California law by requiring customers to provide address, telephone number and email information for credit card transactions. In 2009, the leather goods company settled a class-action lawsuit for a federal securities violation.

The latest class action lawsuit was filed last year in United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, and is still pending. The lawsuit alleges that Coach violated Consumer Protection Acts by attempting to force consumers to purchase only new products and only in Coach stores. Originally filed in February 2011, the lawsuit accuses Coach of systematically engaging in a campaign to suppress second hand sales of its handbags and other products on the popular websites Craig’s List and Ebay.

The lawsuit further claims that Coach wrongly sent cease and desist letters accusing consumers of illegally using its trademarks and selling counterfeit goods. The New York law firm representing Coach threatened $2 million in damages if its requests were not complied with. Gina Kim, the initiator of the lawsuit, claims that Coach sent her a letter demanding that among other things, she discontinue selling Coach products, surrender all Coach merchandise, admit guilt, and send the company a $300 dollar check. Kim also claims that her Ebay account was deactivated and she was temporarily banned from the popular online auction website. Coach is awaiting the results of this latest class action lawsuit, as it will likely affect the manner in which its legal department pursues what it considers significant trademark infringement.

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