Sat, Apr 09, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Hermes files IPR lawsuit against ‘Banane’ maker

LOOKING FAMILIAR:The famed French luxury goods brand said that Taiwanese handbag maker Banana International has ripped off images of its Birkin bag

Staff Writer, with CNA

Banana International spokeswoman Fu Chien-yu yesterday shows the label Hermes claims a Taiwanese handbag maker has infringed upon.

Photo: Hu Shun-hsiang, Taipei Times

Hermes, a well-known French luxury goods brand, has filed a lawsuit with Taiwan’s Intellectual Property Rights Court against Taiwanese handbag maker Banana International for allegedly infringing upon its trademark and copyrights.

At Hermes’ request, the Taipei District Court has ordered a provisional attachment on the merchandise in question — a Banane Taipei canvas tote — which allegedly carries images of the famed Hermes Birkin bag.

Banane has denied the charges.

Banana International spokeswoman Fu Chien-yu (傅茜郁) said the image imprinted on the Banane Taipei bag was not taken from the Birkin bag.

“The image was a local creation and we used thermal printing technology to imprint it on our bag,” Fu said, adding that the image might look like a Birkin bag, but it was not an exact duplicate.

Saying that the canvas tote bag sells for just over NT$1,000 (US$34.50), Fu argued it was unlikely that consumers would mistake any Banane bag as a Hermes Birkin, which costs hundreds of thousands of New Taiwan dollars.

Fu added the Banane bag has not infringed on Hermes’ intellectual property rights (IPR) in any way.

“We have our own trademark that uses a banana to symbolize the spirit of Taiwan,” Fu wrote in a message posted on Facebook. “Our tote is made of eco-friendly material and sold at an affordable price for everyone. We can hardly think that any consumer would mistake our tote for a Birkin bag.”

Fu said Hermes might have taken legal action out of a misperception of the creative concept of the Banane bag.

“We deeply regret Hermes’ accusation. We have retained a lawyer to help with legal matters,” Fu said.

Hermes’ Taiwanese branch would not reveal the amount of damages it has demanded from the Taiwanese company.

The amount of compensation was not the focus, the company said in a statement. The lawsuit was purely aimed at protecting consumers’ rights and reminding local manufacturers of the importance of respecting others’ intellectual property rights.

“We can only say that Taiwan’s ‘Banane bag’ is so popular that it has attracted the attention of our French headquarters,” said Chang Wei-hsi (張微曦), a Hermes marketing manager.

A lawyer retained by the company said Hermes decided to file the lawsuit because the Taiwanese manufacturer deliberately infringed upon the French company’s trademark and copyright.

According to the lawyer, the Banane bag imitates the Birkin bag’s trapezoid shape, orange color and horse cart logo.

Two years ago, the Intellectual Property Rights Court ruled that a local saleswoman should pay NT$250 million in damages to Hermes for selling four bogus Birkin handbags, in addition to publishing an apology to Hermes in major local newspapers.

As a large number of Banane bags have been sold, the manufacturer might have to pay an extremely high amount of compensation if it is convicted of IPR infringement.

According to the Trademark Act (商標法), those who are convicted of trademark infringement should pay damages amounting to 500 to 1,500 times the retail price of the counterfeit product.

Local legal experts estimate that the producer of the Banane bag would have to pay at least NT$740 million in damages if the court were to rule in favor of Hermes.

Since being launched, the Banane bag has developed a cult status among local fashion-conscious consumers. Its fans include some popular entertainers and TV personalities.

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