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When Martin Majestic was hired to break up a counterfeit fish sauce operation, he had no trouble getting volunteers for the mission. “It was hard to keep people off the case,” Majestic said. “Everyone from attorneys to people in the mail room wanted to help out.” Majestic, a partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner’s Palo Alto, Calif., office, was hired by Rufina & Co., a family-owned business in the Philippines, to get counterfeit versions of its fish sauce off grocery store shelves in the San Francisco Bay Area. Last month, he won a lengthy battle when U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel issued a permanent injunction against a supermarket chain and a distributor, prohibiting them from selling phony versions of the sauce. Fish sauce, or “patis,” is a popular component of Asian cuisine, and Rufina is the leading brand. Made from salting and fermenting fish, the amber liquid is sold as a food seasoning. “It’s the Cadillac of fish sauces,” Majestic said. “It fetches the premium price.” While the Rufina brand is typically sold in the United States at a price between $1.39 and $1.79 per bottle, Island Pacific Supermarkets Inc. was selling the sauce for 55 cents per bottle, or two bottles for $1. Early in the case, Majestic and of counsel Steven Morrissett led simultaneous raids of grocery stores in Union City and Daly City, backed up by U.S. marshals, private investigators, IT specialists and a few attorneys. Associate Jennifer Draffen joined the mission as one of the truck drivers. Several years ago, Majestic had gone after a separate crew of counterfeiters for Rufina. Since then, he said, the counterfeit operations have become more sophisticated. One of the marshals on his team couldn’t pick out the phony product until Majestic pointed out the telltale signs. The counterfeit fish sauce was packaged in used whiskey bottles with raised letters naming popular Philippine distilleries; the bottles had no back label; the front label was missing an expiration date; and the shrink-wrap cap had no imprinting. While the grocery stores were caught red-handed, Majestic said the supermarket chain and the distributor, Richwell Group Inc., each blamed the other. “It was an issue of damages, whether there was a causal connection between the alleged counterfeiting and damages,” said Elise Vasquez, an associate at Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley who represented Island Pacific Supermarkets. “We had not seen that in this case.” The defendants ultimately agreed to settle the dispute for an undisclosed amount. Majestic said one of the highlights of the case came during the settlement conference, held at Ropers Majeski’s offices. Name partner Eugene Majeski happened to walk down the hall, and Vasquez introduced him to Majestic. Given the similarity of their last names, Majestic said he has often been confused with the 87-year-old Majeski, whom he had never met. “Meeting Gene Majeski was an added benefit coming out of this case,” Majestic said. “I’ve admired him throughout my legal career.”

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