Coach sues Kane County Flea Market over fake goods

  • Shoppers look through old advertisements and posters at the Kane County Flea Market. Coach has sued the flea market and several vendors over the selling of counterfeit goods.

    Shoppers look through old advertisements and posters at the Kane County Flea Market. Coach has sued the flea market and several vendors over the selling of counterfeit goods. Daily Herald file photo, 2009

Updated 9/23/2011 6:13 PM

The Kane County Flea Market is being sued over the sale of counterfeit items.

Coach Services Inc., makers of Coach purses and other items, alleges the flea market "has been and continues to be a hotbed for the marketing and sale of so-called 'knock-off' or counterfeit merchandise," according the complaint filed Sept. 2 in federal court.


Coach started investigating the market in June 2010. A company investigator bought a fanny pack for $12, a wallet for $11 and a handbag for $18, all bearing designs like those of Coach products, from three unidentified vendors. On the Coach website, the least expensive wallet retails for $42.

The company determined the items were fake, and sent a cease-and-desist notice to the operators of the market ordering them to stop letting vendors sell the products.

At a follow-up investigation April 2, Coach and St. Charles police investigators reported finding counterfeit products at three booths.

Vendors Armila Santarromana, Roberto Santarromana, Ying Fu and Jin Yue Qu were charged with felony violation of the Counterfeit Trademark Act. Qu pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor trademark violation. He was sentenced to 150 days in jail, and was released after serving 75 days with good time. The others' cases are pending.

The suit says the market and its operator, Frederick Robinson, "have knowingly promoted to the public the availability of counterfeit merchandise at the Market for the purpose of driving consumers to the Market." The Coach investigators reported finding counterfeits of other companies' items at the same booths where the fake Coach products were being sold.

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By letting vendors of counterfeit materials sell at his market, Robinson profits from increased space rentals, can charge higher rental prices due to demand, and attracts more customers to the market, the suit charges. The market charges $5 admission.

It is asking for an injunction prohibiting the defendants from advertising or selling such items, and an order to have them recall from distributors or retailers all remaining inventory, to be turned over to Coach for disposal. It also seeks $2 million per counterfeit mark, per item, in statutory damages, or for the defendants to account for their profits realized by selling the fake goods, and then pay three times as much to Coach.

Tom Rosensteel, the flea market's attorney, said his client has "a stated policy not to tolerate any unlawful activity," but that he was "not at liberty" to discuss the specifics of the case.

Coach has sued other flea markets over this issue, including the Maxwell Street Market in Chicago.

On its website, under "Dealer Information," the Kane County Flea Market says that "Troublesome behavior, dishonesty, or leaving a littered sales area will be cause for expulsion." It also says that advertisements must be approved in advance, and that dealers are responsible for what they are selling. "We are not mediators for any price or authenticity problems between customers and dealers. If there is a problem the police should be called."

Besides the flea market, the suit names Robinson personally; and the Santarromanas, Fu and Qu, plus Does 1 through 500.