The case was heard in New York District Court by Judge Jesse Matthew Furman, as Coty Inc. v. Excell Brands, LLC (1:15-cv-07029-JMF).
Coty held that Excell Brands was packaging and marketing copycat fragrances that would confuse consumers and diminish the value of Coty’s fragrance products.
In Judge Furman’s 30 some - page ruling, he notes that when compared to Coty, “Excell's business model is, to put it mildly, a bit different. Until December 2016, Excell concededly manufactured and distributed knockoff fragrances.” And the judgement goes onto outline how Excell admittedly went about doing so. The company selected a fragrance with a high price point and one that would “be understood by its customer base of `lower income, sometimes ethnic customers'.” [Excell's description]
The company then selected a name and packaging that emulated the original and advised its suppliers on the general characteristics of the scent. “Before a fragrance went into production,” explains the judge,”Excell typically reviewed, revised, and approved the bottle, box, and juice. Indeed, the company frequently made changes to the products so that the packaging of its knockoffs would more closely resemble Coty's original branded fragrances.”
Judge Furman’s ruling awards Coty $6.5m in damages and orders Excell to stop selling any fragrances that imitate Coty’s. Though interestingly that latter win is of little importance now, since “Excell shut down its business operations and ceased selling its fragrances in December 2016,” as the ruling notes.
For Coty the case went well, but not as well as the beauty maker had hoped. Coty “did not get everything it asked for,” as TheFashionLaw.com reports. “The court declined to grant an enhanced monetary award for counterfeit products, holding that more than ‘mere similarity’ or ‘colorable imitation’ is necessary for counterfeiting remedies.”
And, the site notes, “the court did not award attorneys’ fees to Coty, even though it had determined that Excell had acted in bad faith.”
The threat of unfair competition doesn’t seem to have lessened Coty’s interest in the prestige fragrance business. Just this month the company completed a deal to acquire the license to Burberry fragrance (as well as cosmetics and skin care), as Cosmetics Design reported.
Both Coty and the fashion brand are eager to move forward and grow the brand’s beauty business. As Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti explains, “Following months of hard work to ensure a smooth transition, we are pleased that this strategic partnership, which brings together tremendous beauty experience and expertise, has begun.”