Woman must pay damages to luxury retailers in counterfeit sales case

A bag is seen backstage ahead of the Louis Vuitton Men's Fall/Winter collection on Jan. 22 2009. A federal court ruled a woman who sold counterfeit luxury goods must forgo a trial, and pay damages or profits to the companies. Justice John Norris writes in his ruling that Natalie Mary Tobey, who operates an unregistered business named TBF Accessories, sold counterfeit Celine, Givenchy, Dior and Louis Vuitton handbags and apparel.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Thibault Camus

OTTAWA - A woman who sold counterfeit luxury handbags and apparel out of a home in the Toronto area won't receive a trial and must pay damages to Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and other well-known brands, a federal court ruled.

Natalie Mary Tobey operated an unregistered business named TBF accessories out of multiple locations, including a Toronto home "that had been converted into a clandestine retail establishment," according to judge John Norris's ruling dated Aug. 8.

She sold counterfeit Celine, Givenchy, Dior and Louis Vuitton handbags, wallets, scarves and other apparel, according to court documents.

The four companies brought separate actions against her, but the ruling covers all four.

Tobey's defence against the four cases argued her merchandise substantially differed from the companies' goods and that reasonably informed people would not confuse them.

"This defence has no hope of success whatsoever," wrote Norris.

He also dismissed other potential issues that could necessitate a trial, including whether the defendant is personally liable for the trademark infringement or the corporation. Norris reasoned the defence would have raised that concern much earlier if they considered it a genuine issue and that there is no evidence of a incorporated business that could shelter Tobey.

"The only genuine issue is the amount to which the moving party is entitled," wrote Norris, which could be decided by a trial or a court-appointed individual. He selected the latter option.

The plaintiffs will be allowed to decide whether they should be paid damages or profits arising from the copyright infringements.

Norris also instructed the parties to attempt to come to an agreement on how much the defendant should pay for their costs in the legal proceedings.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.