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Kartell wins counterfeit suit against Chinese imitator

by Rita Fatiguso

When Claudio Luti, the mind behind high-end plastic furniture maker Kartell, decided to tackle the Chinese market by opening its first store at Sanlitun's Tai Koo-li two years ago, he was aware he would have to suit Chinese taste -- but most importantly, to deal with the shameless imitators of the polycarbonate products the company is known across the globe for.

Such hurdles are the so called “improper barriers to entry” and in China they represent an intricate forest.

Unsurprisingly, Kartell had a hard time: the difficulties of the Chinese market were amplified by the aggressiveness of a parallel industry able to prey on the positive brand image created by one of “Made in Italy’s” leading design names.

At least up until now. A significant change might come from a court ruling of a couple of days ago. Such ruling will forbid the Papyrus and Frilly chairs to be serially produced by Taizhou Donghong Forniture Manufacture Co. Ltd., a Chinese company born four years ago most probably to take advantage of Kartell's debut on the Chinese market.

The litigation between Kartell and its imitator came to an end thanks to the agreement reached with the mediation of a local judge (which will therefore bear legal consequences).

According to the agreement, the counterfeiter will halt the production and sales of the Kartell copies, will destroy all the moulds and will share precious information on other Chinese companies that continue to be active in the counterfeiting of Kartell products.

Taizhou Donghong Forniture Manufacture Co. Ltd. even boasts an official web site www.dhfchina.com/en/Main.asp and a number of showrooms and online shops that can be found at the following addresses: www.tzdongnan.en.alibaba.com (in English) and www.dhfcn01.1688.com (in Chinese) where the company sells products very similar to those of Kartell.

The counterfeiter has pledged to reimburse the expenses incurred for the settlement and pay a penalty in case of any further violation.

Cesare Galli, the owner of the law firm that represented Kartell, stated that “the winning part of our court case was the ability to retrace all the on-line purchases of the counterfeited products. Faced with this evidence, not even the Chinese Court was able to object.”

The war will go on – nobody believes, in fact, that this will be the end – but Kartell's victory represents a significant step forward in the Chinese market.