Denim wars

High-end jean maker sues Boise shop in counterfeit investigation


In April, private investigator Danny R. Smith, a former Los Angeles homicide detective, went jean shopping in Boise's Linen District.

Smith was on assignment for Guru Denim Inc., a subsidiary of True Religion Brand Jeans. He went into Foxtrot Style for Living, a Boise fashion boutique, and found four racks of jeans being sold as authentic True Religion as well as another jean with a similar design to Guru's trademarked clothing.

Smith bought two pairs of the jeans and shipped them to True Religion, where, according to a lawsuit filed Oct. 30 in U.S. District Court in Boise, one was determined to be a counterfeit replica of the original and the other a knock-off of the company's design.

"They were selling counterfeit jeans, and then they were selling an infringing jean," said True Religion attorney Deborah Greaves. "The counterfeits they were definitely putting forward as our jeans."

Foxtrot owners, Tom and Erica Matthews, deny the charges and stand by the authenticity of their jeans, though they pulled the alleged counterfeits from their racks months ago.

"We did have an investigator check the product at one point, but before the product result had come back, we as Foxtrot, had terminated flooring the merchandise," Tom Matthews told BW.

Foxtrot continued selling the alleged knock-off, saying that Guru should take the matter up with the manufacturer, not with the store.

"Foxtrot has been defending their stance for the past seven months, maintaining Guru cannot dictate what additional brands small businesses may carry or sell," Matthews continued in a follow-up e-mail.

The lawsuit alleges that Foxtrot's True Religion jeans were fakes, and that another brand of jean, Bisou D'Eve, were copies of other Guru jeans that infringe on the company's trademark pockets and other design elements.

The Foxtrot investigation led to a large counterfeit jean bust at a Los Angeles warehouse that was mentioned in a September article in the L.A. Times. According to the L.A. Times, U.S. customs officials seized $197 million worth of fakes in 2007.

Asked why True Religion jeans cost so much, Greaves responded that they are made in the United States using real copper and good denim and with special stitching and washes.

The Matthewses recently did some shopping of their own, picking up a pair of True Religion jeans at a discount clothing store for $29. They intend to fight the lawsuit, though at press time, their attorneys had not filed a response.