Counterfeiters Sentenced for ‘Hijacking’ Supreme Clothing Brand
(Bloomberg) -- A London court has sentenced a father and son to years in jail for a sprawling copycat of clothing brand Supreme in what the judge called the most brazen counterfeiting operation he had ever seen.
Michele Di Pierro, 53, was ordered to serve eight years and Marcello Di Pierro, 24, got three years after a private prosecution by the New York-based street wear company, which said the two went so far as to act as if they were the true owners of the brand. Michele’s U.K.-based International Brand Firm Ltd. was fined 7.5 million pounds ($10.4 million).
The two “hijacked every facet of the company’s identity and plagiarized it,” Judge Martin Beddoe said Friday in London, after a jury found the pair guilty of two counts of fraud. “Like ticks, they jumped from one company to another and one jurisdiction to another.”
U.K. law allows for individuals or private groups to act directly as criminal prosecutors in front of a jury. Neither of the Di Pierros attended court and an arrest warrant was then re-issued following the sentencing.
Supreme has been battling Michele Di Pierro across European courts for years after he registered the brand’s name across southern Europe and opened his own Supreme-branded stores in Spain and China. In 2019, Italian authorities seized hundreds of thousands of garments belonging to companies linked to Di Pierro at a warehouse in and around San Marino.
A lawyer representing Marcello declined to comment. Michele said in an emailed statement that Supreme’s private prosecution, which started in 2019, was a “very grave and unjustified assault” riddled with “absurd, unfounded and slanderous allegations of counterfeiting registered trademarks.”
Supreme was bought by VF Corp. last year in a deal that valued the company at $2.1 billion. The clothing brand, started in 1994 aimed at skateboarding culture, has a cult following among younger millennials and Generation Z consumers.
Supreme declined to comment on the outcome of the trial.
From the start of the London trial, Supreme’s lawyers sought to differentiate the Di Pierro operation from the sale of fake goods in street markets. By temporarily registering trademarks and opening shops, Di Pierro operated a substantial commercial operation, Jonathan Laidlaw, a lawyer acting for the company told the jury.
“This was a wholesale attempt to steal Supreme’s identity,” he said.
Supreme pursued the Di Pierros even though there was an attempt at a financial settlement in other countries, Marcello’s lawyer Nick James said during the trial.
The jury took little over four hours to find the two guilty. The next day, Supreme’s lawyer told the judge that Michele could qualify for the maximum sentence under the court’s guidelines while acknowledging that Marcello had played a subordinate role to his father.
Still, it’s unlikely to recover much of the money, Di Pierro’s London company had just 300 pounds in its account.
“The brazenness of the offending,” the judge said, “is as remarkable as the dishonesty.”
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