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Chanel cleared in French counterfeit case

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today Dec 12, 2009
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PARIS, Dec 11, 2009 (AFP) - A French court on Friday 11 December threw out accusations against Chanel of stealing a design from a knitwear supplier but ordered the fashion house to pay damages to the firm for illegally breaking a contract.

Chanel
Director of World Tricot, Carmen Colle

The case pitting World Tricot, a small firm that manufactures high-end knits, against Chanel was seen as test of the rights enjoyed by skilled artisans toiling in the luxury industry.

World Tricot founder Carmel Colle was seeking 2.5 million euros (3.7 million dollars) from Chanel for alleged counterfeit after she spotted in a shop window a Chanel vest with a crochet design that she claims is hers.

The simple cable design with black edging had been previously submitted to Chanel's studio and rejected, Colle claims.

The Paris commercial tribunal ruled that Chanel had not stolen the design although it did order it to pay 400,000 euros in damages to World Tricot for breaking the contract.

World Tricot founder Carmen Colle described the ruling as a "first victory for manufacturers" after the court granted damages and said she would appeal the decision.

Chanel's lawyer Gerard Delile said "I don't know if this is a victory for us, but it's a defeat for World Tricot."

"We are very satisfied with this decision. It recognizes Chanel's role in creation and distinguishes it from the manufacturers technical know-how," said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel's fashion division.

Chanel had filed a counter-suit against World Tricot, accusing them of trashing the brand with customers.

In that case, the court ordered the firm to pay a symbolic one-euro fine and 100,000 euros in damages to Chanel.

A former community organiser, Colle founded her company with help from charity foundations that supported her project to hire jobless women from an economically-depressed region of eastern France.

Soon she found herself in business with such top names in haute couture as Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix and Givenchy, providing high-quality workmanship.

The contract with Chanel however was a crowning moment for Colle and the fashion house became her main customer.

After she spotted the design in a Chanel shop in Tokyo in 2005, she complained to the fashion house directly.

Chanel soon after began drastically cutting down orders to World Tricot and finally broke away from the firm altogether.

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