A New York judge ordered the Bank of China to provide thorough information about a counterfeiting group’s Chinese bank accounts for its alleged involvement in selling fake Gucci wallets and handbags worth millions of dollars in the U.S., the Associated Press (AP) reported Wednesday. The judge also ruled that U.S. courts will have jurisdiction over the bank, which has four branches across the country, according to AP.
Chinese banks, in the past, have stated that revealing such records could offend China's sovereignty. And under Chinese law, it is tricky to get detailed banking information that can help investigators find the flow of criminal profits and to freeze illegal funds, AP reported.
"Forcing Gucci to initiate this process in China would be significantly less efficient, extremely time consuming, and potentially fruitless," U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan wrote in the Sept. 29 order.
Geoffrey Potter, an intellectual property lawyer at New York's Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, told AP that Chinese banks have been facilitating payments for the counterfeiting rings and disclosure of any information would make it difficult for such groups to do business.
Dan Plane, an intellectual property lawyer at Simone IP Services in Hong Kong, warned that even if the Bank of China is forced to reveal the records, it will disclose few details, according to the AP report. The bank is also likely to tell its customers about ways to alleviate such risks following any disclosure, Plane reportedly added.
"It gets you over the initial hump, but there are still going to be challenges, particularly in actually collecting a damages award," Plane explained. "The biggest question of all is: Are you ever going to be able get your hands on counterfeiters' funds in the control of Chinese banks?"
AP stated that Gucci might face complications while collecting damages, in case any awarded, from the bank. Tiffany & Co., which won compensation in two cases ($52.3 million in June and $26.5 million in September) against Chinese counterfeiters, is currently struggling to get its hands on the funds from the defendants, who did not turn up in court, according to AP. The defendants are believed to be in China, where U.S. court judgments do not have influence.