France’s Van Cleef & Arpels charged with counterfeit

PARIS - High-end French jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels has been charged with using a ring design allegedly stolen from a gem trader, according to a court document obtained by AFP on Saturday.

Trader Francois Le Goarant de Tromelin filed a complaint against the exclusive jewellery house in 2011 claiming to hold the rights to the model of a ring set with precious gems called the "Antoinette", thought to be named in honour of his wife, Antonieta.

The jeweller was charged with counterfeit on June 14, a judicial source told AFP.

Van Cleef & Arpels disputes Le Goarant's story and claims full ownership of the design.

The dispute is just the latest between the trader and the company connected to a separate affair between Le Goarant and another trader, Robert Szumeraj, with whom he shared an office before Szumeraj was murdered in 1997 by a business rival.

Le Goarant alleges that Szumeraj took the designs from a safe without his knowledge and attempted to sell them to jewellery houses around Paris, eventually finding success at Van Cleef & Arpels.

According to the court document, the jeweller is accused of having "taken the initiative to fraudulently manufacture or have manufactured said models and sell them directly" in its flagship Paris store and in Japan.

A lawyer for Van Cleef & Arpels, Nicolas Huc-Morel, said the accusations were unfounded and added the company would "strongly dispute" what he termed "alleged acts of counterfeit on older models of jewellery".

Huc-Morel said Le Goarant had previously faced Van Cleef in the civil courts and that the case had been dismissed.

Le Goarant's lawyer, Joseph Breham, said he had new proof of his client's ownership of around 40 designs, including the Antoinette ring.