Cartier Sues Online “Flash” Retailer HauteLook Over Watch Sales


Cartier has sued HauteLook, Inc. in federal court in Manhattan alleging the Los Angeles-based retailer falsely claims to offer new Cartier goods at deep discounts based on a special relationship with the brand. Cartier’s complaint states that it has no relationship with HauteLook, and that the retailer is selling secondhand Cartier watches and other goods as new.

The complaint, filed August 3, states that the Hautelook website contains the claim “no secondhand merchandise, ever.” Cartier says that through its agents, it purchased 5 Cartier watches from HauteLook, and after reviewing the timepieces and information based on serial numbers, Cartier concluded that all 5 watches were “used and therefore secondhand.”

Cartier claims the watches also showed scratches and evidence of poor polishing and improper repair. One watch was delivered in a damaged Baume & Mercier box, and on certain Certificates of Authenticity included with Cartier products, the authorized retailers’ names had been scratched out.

Cartier also complains that the HauteLook website fails to advise consumers that the warranty they receive differs from the warranty provided with Cartier goods purchased through authorized channels, though HauteLook includes Cartier warranty booklets with the Cartier goods it sells, leading to possible consumer confusion.

Cartier notes that HauteLook “very recently” added language to its website indicating that its products are not always sourced directly from brand manufacturers, but Cartier says the “sourcing disclaimer is hidden in fine print on the site,” and that HauteLook sales practices might lead consumers to believe that some Cartier goods are sourced directly from the manufacturer.

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting HauteLook from making false claims or misrepresentations regarding Cartier-branded products and any affiliation with Cartier. The suit also seeks an order directing HauteLook to deliver up for destruction goods bearing the Cartier mark that “differ materially from authorized goods”. Cartier also seeks monetary relief, including profits from Cartier merchandise sales, plus damages of up to $2 million per type of disputed Cartier merchandise sold.

On June 3, HauteLook announced that it had secured $31 million of Series C equity funding led by New York private equity firm Insight Venture Partners.

The case is captioned Cartier International AG and Cartier, a division of Richemont North America v. Hautelook, Inc., number 10-05845. The action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. The case has been assigned to Judge Kevin P. Castel.

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