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Alleged Counterfeiter Countersues Tory Burch for Counterfeiting

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Images via <a href="">Isis</a>
Images via Isis

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Tory Burch says rings, necklaces, and earrings including the ones pictured above, available from Isis, a wholesale brand owned by a New York company called Lin & J, are no more than cheap counterfeits of its own jewelry. Tory Burch is suing Lin & J to protect its trademarks.

But in a just-filed countersuit, Lin & J claims the Isis baubles aren't knock-offs, but are instead original designs inspired by the Isis cross. An Isis cross, or a Coptic cross, is a symmetrical cross with short, flanged bars, typically set in a circle. It is so nicknamed because examples of it were chiseled by Coptic Christians into the stone walls of an ancient Egyptian temple formerly devoted to the goddess Isis when the Christians took it over. An Isis cross looks, frankly, quite a lot like the Tory Burch logo, but it's been around for millennia. Lin & J says it has been making cross jewelry for years, and any similarities to the Tory Burch logo are coincidental. In fact, claims Lin & J, Tory Burch is knocking off Isis.

"Don't be fooled by Tory Burch's commando-style litigation and media blitz. Tory Burch is well aware that my client introduced its 'Isis Cross' design over four years ago – long before she introduced her line," says Lin & J's lawyer, Howard Myerowitz.

Back in May, Women's Wear Daily reported on Tory Burch's lawsuit against Lin & J, one of four such suits that the company filed at that time:

The brand also sued Lin & J International Inc. and co-owners Lani Kim and Youngran Kim, claiming the Chinese company sold "thousands" of units of counterfeit Burch jewelry to a host of retailers, including to chain retailers in Texas since 2012. Earlier this year, Burch sent a representative to Lin & J's showroom in New York. According to the lawsuit, the representative was shown a variety of knockoffs and told the minimum order was $350. Burch also identified a wholesaler in Alabama who fingered Lin & J as their supplier of thousands of units of fake jewelry. In court papers, Burch said the defendants attended the International Fashion & Jewelry Accessory Show in Orlando in February, where they showcased the baubles and took orders for no less than $1,000.

Lin & J, unhappy with being accused of trading in counterfeit goods, is suing Tory Burch for unfair trade practices, tortious interference with its business relationships, defamation, and trademark infringement.

Lin & J was founded in 2005; Tory Burch started her company, as TRB by Tory Burch, in 2004, which means the logo must predate Isis.

There is an undeniable visible similarity between some of the Isis pieces and Tory Burch's iconic logo (though not, as far as we could tell by looking at the jewelry offerings on the company Web site, any specific Tory Burch jewelry designs). Is this coincidence, an example of two design teams working from similar references – something we've seen before with Vena Cava and Alice + Olivia – or is Lin & J trying to get as close as possible to a Tory Burch logo without crossing the line into trademark infringement? Intellectual property rights in fashion is a complicated legal field, and in a courtroom, there's a vast difference between a counterfeit (an inauthentic, unauthorized, wannabe stitch-for-stitch designer imitation) and a knock-off (a close-but-not identical designer imitation). The law is complex, with trademark and copyright provisions both coming into play, and many fashion designs don't benefit from any copyright protections at all. But Lin & J, with its countersuit and its $2.2 million in annual revenues (versus Tory Burch's $800 million), sure is coming out swinging.

— Jenna Sauers

· Tory Burch Fights Jewelry Counterfeiters in Court [WWD]
· Jewelry Co. Files Countersuit Against Tory Burch [The Fashion Law]
· Vena Cava Accuses Alice + Olivia Of Ripping Off Design [Racked]