French luxury brand Louis Vuitton has angered netizens by demanding compensation from local businesses for infringing its trademark.
But despite calls to protest outside the fashion label's flagship store at The Landmark in Central yesterday, only one turned up.
Now netizens have called another protest against LV's heavy-handed this Sunday outside a Tsim Sha Tsui outlet, hoping for a big turnout.
Louis Vuitton has accused the owner of a Shau Kei Wan hair salon of trademark infringement for using a cover on its chairs that appeared to be LV's trademarked check pattern.
This follows a lawsuit filed last year by Louis Vuitton against a Mong Kok boutique for selling handbags featuring a golden lock similar to the company's signature lock designs.
Lone protester Wong Hai-wai, an actress and grandmother, said: "I protest in support of the small-shop owners. Intellectual property is important and has to be protected, but how could these small-business owners survive to pay such huge compensation?"
She brought along two gridiron egg- waffle makers with checkered patterns to say that Louis Vuitton's trademarked check pattern can be seen everywhere. Wong's action spurred netizens to call for a second protest at 1pm on Sunday outside an LV outlet on Canton Street in Tsim Sha Tsui.
A Facebook page launched last night attracted more than 110 "likes" for Sunday's action. Netizen Ho Ting-hang wrote: "I will wear a shirt in check patterns to protest against LV."
Another posted a picture of the checkered floor tiles leading to the Waterloo Road entrance of Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, asking if LV will sue the public hospital as well.
The salon owner, who identified himself as Chan, said he received a letter from LVMH on February 22 demanding a published apology and payment of HK$25,000 in damages. Although the company eventually agreed to reduce the amount by half to HK$12,500, Louis Vuitton wants a published apology from Chan by next Thursday.
Chan said he could not afford to pay the damages and may have to close. He has removed the checkered covers.
He bought the furniture from Shenzhen for HK$1,200 and was not aware the pattern belonged to Louis Vuitton.
Meanwhile, the owner of a Mong Kok boutique being sued by Louis Vuitton said she opened seven years ago. Mrs Lui, 63, said she makes a profit of about HK$10,000 a month by selling fashion imported from Japan.
She received a letter from Louis Vuitton dated September 26 last year, demanding compensation of HK$40,000 and a published apology. The company increased the compensation demand to HK$150,000 last month, despite the owner asking for the sum to be reduced.
Lui said she bought two bags from Japan for HK$120 and sold them for HK$220 each. She was not aware the lock was Louis Vuitton's intellectual property. Now she might have to close.
A spokesperson for Louis Vuitton Asia Pacific said it adopted "a cooperative approach with the infringers."
"They will have to sign an undertaking, acknowledge our trademark rights publicly and bear a portion of the [infringement] costs."
Last year, more than 1,000 people jammed Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui to protest Dolce & Gabbana's ban on locals taking photographs. The retailer later apologized.