Gucci and Facebook have banded together to file a lawsuit against a luxury counterfeiter. The suit has been filed against a single woman based in Moscow, Natalia Kokhtenko, who the companies say has used more than five Facebook and accounts and more than 150 Instagram accounts to promote three different online stores. On those sites were “dozens” of counterfeit Gucci products, including handbags, clothing, and accessories.
As part of the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Northern California, the two parties are seeking an injunction that would bar Kokhtenko from infringing upon Gucci’s trademarks and “accessing or attempting” to access any of Facebook’s platforms. Gucci is also seeking monetary damages equal to three times the profits Kokhtenko has made or $2 million for “each and every one of the prohibited marks counterfeited,” according to The Fashion Law.
Why is Facebook getting involved? — In a joint statement, Facebook said it “take[s] intellectual property issues, and particularly issues around counterfeiting seriously, and their terms strictly prohibit IP infringement, including the sale or promotion of counterfeit products.” Specifically, Facebook’s terms of service ban “doing anything that infringes or violates someone else’s rights, including their intellectual property rights.”
When Gucci first discovered Kokhtenko’s accounts and websites, one of its agents purchased some of the products to confirm that they were fake. Gucci then notified Facebook, which moved to deactivate all of Kokhtenko’s accounts and notify her of the offenses. Despite Facebook’s efforts, the lawsuit says Kokhtenko proceeded to use a bot to create user accounts in bulk while circumventing Facebook’s own systems.
Because of these actions, Facebook is claiming a breach of contract for failing to follow Facebook and Instagram’s terms of service. Gucci, meanwhile, is accusing Kokhtenko of trademark infringement, counterfeiting, and violating unfair competition clauses at both the state and federal levels.
Facebook sees this a lot — Facebook says it’s been taking action on reports from Gucci and other brands since 2015. Working with these brands has helped Facebook develop what it calls a robust IP protection program, which has been used to remove “more than one million pieces of content” last year based on “thousands of reports” of counterfeit content.
The joint lawsuit with Gucci signals that Facebook is ready to take its battle against counterfeiters to the next level. This year, Amazon has also partnered with Valentino to take similar action against counterfeiters on its own platform.