“Girlfriends by Design” Goes Down (to Jail)

Posted by | February 23, 2011 | General | No Comments

On February 15, 2011, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release stating that an ICE probe led to the arrest of the owner of a Bakersfield, California retailer, “Girlfriends by Design” for trafficking in counterfeit goods.  ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) department has been investigating trafficking allegations against the shop and its owner, Eric Huggins, after receiving a lead that the shop was selling counterfeit merchandise sometime in late 2009.  In December, 2009, an ICE HSI agent posing as a customer bought several counterfeit items from the store.  During the purchase, the agent asked Huggins about a bin of purses, which Huggins told the agent he could “put any logo” on, specifically naming the Prada and Gucci brands.

In March, 2010, ICE HSI agents executed search warrants at “Girlfriends by Design,” as well as at Higgin’s home, resulting in the seizure of $140,000 worth (determined by the retail value of equivalent genuine goods) of counterfeit luxury and sports apparel and accessories.  The ICE press release states that Huggins then continued to sell counterfeit goods including pro sports (NBA and NFL) jerseys from the back of his van in the parking lots of several Bakersfield businesses.

There’s some good photos of the counterfeit merchandise on Bakersfieldnow.com, along with this broadcast news story:

I think it is interesting that the reporter in the news clip above stated that Huggin’s case is especially egregious because he was a business person.  This implies that Huggin’s actions would have been less illegal or immoral had he only been selling counterfeits from his car and not from a storefront.  I suppose the volume of sales, hence the total negative impact, would be less were Huggin’s selling only from his car, but the negative consequences are the same regardless of where the sales occurred.

Fortunately, the stiff penalties associated with trafficking — a maximum penalty of up to ten years in prison and a $2 million fine — should be enough to dissuade most folks from engaging in such activity.  Huggin’s case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.  The Complaint may be seen here in PDF format.

Counterfeiting is Bad.  It deprives brand owners of the goodwill and business they earned.  Even worse though are the negative social justice impacts of counterfeiting.  These include unfair wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor, and other humans rights violations.  Purchasing counterfeit products supports these injustices.  Please don’t buy fakes!

About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

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