Tacoma business accused of selling knockoff handbags

SEATTLE -- A popular handbag and accessories company has filed a lawsuit against a Tacoma businessman, accusing him of selling counterfeit goods.

Representatives from Coach learned last month that products with designs similar to their own were being sold at a Tacoma store.

The company estimates counterfeiting costs the US economy anywhere from $250 billion to $500 billion each year.

The sign outside Portland Avenue Hair and Beauty Supply lists the items sold inside the shop, but Coach representatives say some of those handbags and accessories are knockoffs.

Now the company is taking the shop's owner to court as part of something called "Operation Turnlock." The operation is meant to do away with counterfeiting and has already resulted in 700 lawsuits.

In this lawsuit, which was filed last week, Coach claims the owner of the Tacoma store is infringing on the company's authentic products.

"Defendants' acts are deliberate and intended to confuse the public as to the source of defendants' goods or services and to injure plaintiffs," the complaint reads.

Coach singles out one bag sold in Tacoma that representatives say bears markings and designs from the Coach trademark.

The store owner said he hasn't seen the lawsuit but believes the bag in question came from New York. When asked where, specifically, the bag came from, he said he would have to check with his sources.

David Quinlan of the Better Business Bureau said well made knockoffs make it difficult to tell which product is fake and which is not.

"It's alarming, the similarities between the actual items that they're trying to sell and the knock offs," he said.

Quinlan said anyone in the market for high-end products should do their homework before buying.

"We advise consumers to shop wisely," he said. "Obviously, before you buy any high-end product you want to make sure it's authentic. If you're going to go online, you want to make sure you use a reputable website."

Coach offered similar advice, saying the only place shoppers can buy its merchandise are at Coach stores, factory stores, authorized department stores and the company's website.