The guilty verdict in this country’s first trademark infringement case will have a ripple effect on the ability of small businesses to continue their trade, according to a local attorney-at-law.
Satcha Kissoon, whose client, Grenville Ricardo Delpeache, the director of Ouch Boutique, was found guilty of selling counterfeit Rihanna PUMA products, said today’s landmark ruling by Magistrate Graveney Bannister would place a number of Barbadian businessmen in a difficult position.
Delpeache was found guilty of selling fake PUMA Fenty by Rihanna Creeper sneakers and PUMA Fenty slippers, as well as exposing for sale 17 counterfeit PUMA slippers, seven single shoes and 31 backpacks in May last year.
In his defence he said he had bought the items at storefronts in the United States and he thought they were genuine as he had examined them and “they were marked PUMA”.
However, the magistrate did not buy his argument, saying he did “not accept the evidence that as an experienced businessman he just went to a storefront and looked at the items and bought them”.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY immediately after the decision was rendered this morning, Delpeache’s lawyer argued that many storeowners buy their goods in much the same way and, like his client, they depend on the integrity of their suppliers.
“This is going to have a ripple effect and a serious problem for most Barbadians because they get their goods from the same suppliers as Mr Delpeache. They go into the . . . various storefronts in New York and Miami. They rely on the integrity of the people who say they are selling genuine products and they have no reason or cause to go behind them to check. So it is going to cause a serious problem for every storeowner here,” Kissoon argued.
The attorney-at-law also contended that based on the magistrate’s findings, local retailers were being asked to engage in unrealistic efforts to safeguard themselves from similar charges in the course of doing business.
“The court seems to be suggesting that retailers must now go behind the supplier, go in the backroom and sit down with the manager and find out through some form of documentation to prove the authenticity of the items. To my mind this cannot be a very helpful or a realistic exercise,” he said.
However, PUMA’s legal representative in Barbados, attorney-at-law Mark Hope, said Barbadian businesses must adhere to the contract law principle of ‘buyer beware’.
“Delpeache is a business person and certainly if you are going to go into business then you ought to do your research. You ought to look into the products and ask questions. There is an old adage, ‘let the buyer beware’. If you are going to purchase items you must ensure that you are purchasing from a reputable dealer, ask questions and investigate. You can’t just assume that because something is for sale it is good,” Hope told Barbados TODAY this morning.
Hope further argued that today’s verdict augured well for Barbados’ business reputation as it relates to brand protection and enforcement.
“It speaks well for Barbados because remember that Barbados’ economy is supported in large part by the international business sector and tourism. Our tourists on a daily basis will see these internationally recognized brands, so it has implications even though Barbados may appear to be a small market,” said Hope, who warned that his client had no intention of stopping there and would seek to prosecute anyone selling counterfeit products of its brands.
“From the outset we intended to make a statement that we are serious about our brands and PUMA is serious about the protection of its brands. We want to send a signal to anyone who is interested in selling brands that PUMA is interested in sales of its legitimately branded and authorized merchandise. PUMA, like every other brand, has to represent itself at every stage. So action has to taken at the manufacturing level, at points of entry and at the retail end,” he stressed.