Alumnus protects one of the world’s most valuable brands in China

Peter Chong, Law'90
Photo by Grainne Quinlan

Peter Chong, Law’90, is both an enforcer of intellectual property (IP) rights and an aficionado of the artistry and exceptional craftsmanship of the luxury goods whose trademarks and reputation he protects. Those belong to Louis Vuitton, recognized as one of the world’s most valuable brands – but also one of its most counterfeited.

As the company’s Director of Civil Enforcement, IP Department, for Greater China, Mr. Chong has led the French luxury retailer to victory in some notable cases that strengthen intellectual property protection for all global luxury brands.

“(Intellectual property) infringement was often seen as a victimless crime because it’s not a threat to life, but now a brand’s value is much more widely recognized. People need to trust in the trademark – that is, know the source and trust the quality of the goods,” says Mr. Chong, who joined Louis Vuitton in Hong Kong in 2007 and is now based in Shanghai.

He has won several precedent-setting civil cases compensating Louis Vuitton for the production and sale of fake goods. The first was a successful enforcement in Hong Kong of a U.S. judgment (US$3.5 million) against five defendants for trademark counterfeiting and infringement. Their New York-based syndicate had operations in China and Hong Kong.

In 2015, a Beijing court ordered that a four-star hotel pay Louis Vuitton nearly $200,000 for breaching consumer trust by allowing the sale of knock-off handbags, belts, watches, and iPhone cases. “We argued that consumers don’t suspect the goods in hotel lobby shops are counterfeits because they trust high-class hotels,” says Mr. Chong.

Deterrence is a key goal of his recent suits. A case against the landlord of a wholesale/retail leather goods market, based on contributory liability, was recognized by China’s Supreme People's Court as a 2014 Model Intellectual Property Case. Then he led litigation with other luxury brands against Guangzhou’s three largest wholesale leather goods markets to set a local precedent and create deterrence. The final Guangzhou Intellectual Property Court cases were selected among the 2015-2016 Top 10 Best Practice Cases by an industry association, the Quality Brands Protection Committee. For market management, the judgments imposed joint liability with counterfeit vendors and a high duty of care to take effective measures to stop infringing sales. 

While he relishes the challenge of tackling such complex cases, he also enjoys his job’s cultural aspects. “I admire the savoir-faire and craftsmanship of Louis Vuitton luggage and bags,” he says. “They are exceptional products that can last a lifetime. As a companion for world travelers, an LV bag acquires a beautiful, time-worn patina, holding memories and trusted belongings.”

Mr. Chong’s entry into his specialization was completely unplanned. Born and raised in Toronto, he was the son of hard-working immigrants from southern China (Cantonese). After a BA in international relations, he chose to study law so he’d have the flexibility to pursue a wide range of career options. “Queen’s Law set very high standards, and I gained a lot from its intellectual approach and rigour.”

In 1992, he traveled to Taiwan to learn Mandarin, take a break from schooling and the law, and work with the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei. In 1995, he landed a job at Deacons, one of Hong Kong’s largest law firms. “My boss put me into IP enforcement, doing administrative raids across China against counterfeit factories and workshops. That was fun, hands-on, and eye-opening.”

Next with Microsoft (1998-2006), Mr. Chong’s duties in North Asia included policy work and fighting against unlicensed copies of the world’s most widely used software. “It was exciting to be at the heart of an IT industry leader,” he reflects, “lobbying for better (intellectual property) protection policy and seeing up close the push and pull of major power interactions (U.S.-China) in international relations.”

His career advice? “Learn to have faith in your journey and be alert to opportunities. It was Queen’s Law that gave me the grounding, training and education that allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities I found.”

 

This story was written by Mark Witten and originally appeared in the most recent edition of Queen’s Law Reports.

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