A court on Thursday took the side of a Korean retailer who filed a damages suit against Burberry Korea after being accused of importing counterfeit clothing.
Seoul Central District Court ordered the Korean branch of the British company to compensate the plaintiff with 10 million won ($9,475) for both mental and pecuniary damages derived from the allegation.
The retailer in 2010 requested an import declaration for 5,700 scarves from China worth 40 million won.
Korea Customs Service, which received a complaint from Burberry Korea, identified the goods as fake and seized them.
The importer later faced criminal charges for allegedly violating the trademark law.
Upon acquittal, the retailer filed a damages suit against Burberry Korea.
“Burberry products and the imported items had conspicuous differences, which (Burberry) would have been aware of, but still claimed a trademark breach, putting the plaintiff at risk of criminal punishment,” said the court.
It, however, did not acknowledge the government’s liability, saying that “just because the customs service officers did not find differences, it is hard to see it as negligence, considering their lack of professional knowledge about the brand.”
Burberry was the fourth most frequently counterfeited brand after Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci, according to a customs service report last year.
In the first half of 2012, the government detected 315 cases of fake goods, equivalent to a retail value of 615.9 billion won.
Toys and stationery were the most common items, followed by clothes, electronics and bags.
Among 1.65 million counterfeit pieces of 211 brands, only 5 percent, or 85,881 items, were Korean brands.
In an attempt to enhance the control of fake goods, the National Assembly in June passed a bill offering rewards for reports of counterfeiting.
By Lee Hyun-jeong (email@example.com