CASE STUDY: “Bee the Bag Lady”

A few years ago, Trace Investigations received a call from the legal counsel of a major designer label. Brandy was special counsel to the firm’s brand protection department and she had received a tip that a small retail shop in a strip mall not far from our office was selling women’s purses which were knock-offs of their designer handbag. We were dispatched to investigate, and if we confirmed the presence of the counterfeit handbag, asked to make a purchase and identify the business owner. The shop, known as “Bee the Bag Lady,” had for sale when we arrived eight handbags with our client’s logo and other trademark markings. In addition to the handbags we saw several sunglasses in a case which had our client’s name imprinted on the frames. These were most likely knock-offs as well, since our client distributed their label only in major national retail stores. Our investigator purchased a hand-bag and a pair of sunglasses, and, after engaging the store clerk in a friendly conversation, learned that she was “Bee,” or Beatrice, the owner of the shop. Subsequent investigation identified Bee and her husband as owners of two other “Bee the Bag Lady” shops in college towns in Indiana, all situated in outlet lots and strip malls in shopping districts.

By overnight express mail, we forwarded the evidence and our investigative report to Brandy. The next day, after confirming that the merchandise was counterfeit, she initiated legal action against “Bee the Bag Lady,” providing us with cease and desist letters to deliver to the “Bee” shops. The letters required immediate surrender of the fake merchandise and complete details on the wholesale provider of the fake goods, or further legal action would be forthcoming. Bee and her husband complied and disavowed any knowledge that the goods they purchased were fake. Our client asked us to destroy the counterfeit products. There was no further action in Indiana against the “Bee” owners, but our client went after the U.S. distributor on the west coast.

It’s not only the major designers and brands that are being exploited. Consumers interested in quality merchandise at a savings are being ripped-off; manufacturers and traditional wholesale and retail outlets are losing business. Smaller labels and franchises are having their intellectual property copied as well. In the age of e-commerce and non-traditional retail outlets brand protection is a major concern for companies, large and small.

If you need assistance in protecting your intellectual property, call Trace Investigations at (812) 334-8857 or email