Amazon and Italian luxury brand Maison Valentino on Thursday filed a joint lawsuit against a former Amazon Marketplace seller over sales of counterfeit versions of Valentino's Garavani Rockstud shoes, "in violation of Amazon's policies and Valentino's intellectual property rights."
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington in Seattle, names Buffalo, New York-based Kaitlyn Pan Group, LLC, Hao Pan and 10 other defendants referred to as "John and Jane Does," according to court documents. In a joint press release, Amazon said it shut down Kaitlyn Pan's seller account in September 2019, but alleges that "Despite multiple notices of infringement and a cease and desist order, Kaitlyn Pan continues to import, distribute, sell, and offer infringing products on [its website]."
Kaitlyn Pan didn't immediately return Retail Dive's request for comment.
Amazon is reportedly working on strengthening its fashion play. Its latest effort in the space came Monday, when Amazon Fashion launched "the Big Style Sale," featuring promotional prices on name brands like Levi’s, Calvin Klein, Adidas, Shoshanna, Eberjey and Club Monaco, according to an email from the e-commerce giant to Retail Dive.
While there's evidence that its customers, particularly those in Prime, would like to see high-end labels and name brands, they're also looking for such deals. Coresight Research earlier this year found that 21.7% of its apparel customers would like Amazon to feature higher end brands. Nearly 43% of apparel shoppers told Coresight that they expect to pay less than full price for apparel at Amazon. The e-retailer "has not yet shaken off the discounter tag," according to Coresight's April report.
Amazon has frequently been implicated by brands for allegedly featuring fakes on its site. Last year, the American Apparel & Footwear Association recommended that the U.S. trade office flag some of Amazon's websites as "notorious markets" for their proliferation of counterfeit goods. In response, the e-commerce giant pointed to efforts that it said prevented more than a million "suspected bad actors" from listing products and blocked more than 3 billion suspicious listings, and maintained that over 99.9% of its assortment "never have received a complaint about a suspected counterfeit from a customer or rights owner."
Despite such rumblings, the e-commerce giant enjoys high levels of customer trust. In court papers, the company said its policies are designed to safeguard that. "To protect consumers and preserve the integrity of the Amazon store, Amazon has robust policies and highly developed fraud detection systems to prevent third-party bad actors from selling counterfeit products in Amazon's store," the company said. "When Amazon discovers that a bad actor is attempting to violate Amazon's anti-counterfeiting policies, it takes immediate action to remove the bad actor from the store and, in appropriate cases, to permanently enjoin the bad actor from future sales through court orders."
The fight over counterfeits is complicated by a willingness to buy them. While brands get incensed when they find knockoffs of their wares being sold, a practice made easier by e-commerce, consumers are less bothered. A 2019 report from the International Trademark Association on Gen Z counterfeit consumption habits, found that 71% of those surveyed bought counterfeit products in the previous year, and 35% anticipated buying fewer fake goods in the future. But the survey also found that a majority of Gen Z consumers (64%) said they had a positive experience purchasing a counterfeit product.
Still, Amazon indicated last week that it will continue to be aggressive in removing Marketplace vendors selling fakes.
"The vast majority of sellers in our store are honest entrepreneurs but we do not hesitate to take aggressive action to protect customers, brands, and our store from counterfeiters," Dharmesh Mehta, vice president, customer trust and partner support, said in a statement. "Amazon and Valentino are holding this company accountable in a court of law and we appreciate Valentino's collaboration throughout this investigation."