SEIKO TAKES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST FAKE WATCHES

Three lawsuits, leading to seizure by federal marshals of thousands of fake Seiko watches, were filed by Seiko Corp. of Japan, one of the world’s largest watchmakers, and Seiko Corp. of America, its Mahwah, N.J.-based U.S. subsidiary, between July and September 2000. Seiko announced the results on December 18.

‘Seiko wants to put a significant bite [on vendors of counterfeit Seiko watches], cut off activity wherever we can and convey the idea that counterfeiting Seiko watches is not a healthy activity,’ says Lawrence Rosenthal, U.S. legal counsel for Seiko.

Seiko routinely enforces its trademark legally, and it works closely with U.S. Customs and other federal officials on counterfeiting issues. But these most recent actions were different because they involved seizure of substantial amounts of counterfeit watches, and most of the defendants named were affiliated or somehow connected with one business, called Global Time.

The first Seiko legal suit was filed in July in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida. Seiko’s preparation involved purchases by undercover investigators, evaluation of them by SCA watch experts, and their inclusion as evidence in the legal suits. Based on that, the court authorized raids by federal marshals at the facilities of 12 defendants’ businesses in Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, and Miami, ‘the field headquarters of the operations,’ according to Rosenthal. Some 25,000 fake Seiko watches, many of them made in China, were seized (as well as a few more in subsequent raids on other defendants in New York in August and September).

That case resulted in a permanent restraining order against the defendants, issued mid-December, preventing them from selling any more counterfeit Seiko watches.

Based on information from those defendants, Seiko in August brought suit against five other defendants in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and obtained a temporary restraining order barring the sale or distribution of counterfeit watches. That was followed in September with a third Seiko suit in the New York court against two more defendants, based on information from the two prior actions. Seiko also obtained a restraining order against their sale of fake watches, too.