Hennessy hopes to use its size and muscle to frighten potential suppliers of counterfeit Hennessy products. (Photo/CNS)
French winemaker Hennessy Group has started a new fight against counterfeits that have allegedly infringed on the group's products and brands in China. More than 600 liquor and wine distributors and retailers in southern Guangzhou City will be included in the extensive legal battle.
Analysts said the Hennessy's legal action was intended mainly to intimidate rampant counterfeiting activities across China. More than a dozen wine distributors and sellers were ordered to appear at the Guangzhou Baiyun District People's Court on Aug 11 for a hearing on the complaints from Hennessy.
The French company is seeking infringement compensation of 80,000 Chinese yuan (US$12,577) plus operating losses of 31,450 yuan (US$4,944), and the payment of legal fees from each of the defendants, according to the National Business Daily.
There were already 67 firms and stores in Guangzhou's Huadu District named by Hennessy's law firm as defendants plus more than 170 in the Baiyun District. There will be eventually more than 600 suspects in Guangzhou City brought to the court by Hennessy, not including cases in other areas like Fanyu and Zengcheng of Guangdong Province, said lawyers involved in the cases.
Hennessy's lawyers presented evidence acquired from the purchasing of fake Hennessy products in the company of notaries who helped collect transaction receipts and take photos of the transaction process as evidence.
The defendants, who were representated by a former director of their trade association, denied the charges and asserted that Hennessy had used illegal ways of acquiring evidence, including falsifying trading records because there was just one single person disguised as customer to enter the shops to make purchases without witnesses on the scene.
This made it impossible to verify the authenticity of the receipts to ascertain that they had not been deliberately switched.
The legal fights are expected to drag on as more defendants are to be brought in by Hennessy. Shop owners are unlikely to throw in the towel without putting up a good fight.
Analysts said the major purpose for Hennessy to start a new round of legal fights against counterfeit products is to frighten all suspected of the illegal trade throughout China and restrain them from supplying fake liquors and wines of famous foreign brands that have enjoyed excellent sales in China as high-end products.
A lawyer of Hennessy stressed that more legal actions will be taken because similar investigations and litigations had been started in other regions in China.
He declined to reveal the progress of the investigations and how many firms and retailers will be eventually implicated.