Luxury handbag sales are big business in the auction world. This Hermès Shiny Rouge H Porosus Crocodile Birkin, with diamond and white gold hardware set a world record at the time as the most valuable handbag ever sold at auction in 2011. It sold at Heritage Auctions at a premium inclusive $203,150.

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Heritage sued Christie’s in late 2014 over breach of contract and theft of trade secrets after it hired Rubinger, Rachel Koffsky and Caitlin Donovan.

Heritage claimed Christie’s induced the three to “breach their respective employment contracts and engage in unfair business practices”.

According to artnet news, a New York State Supreme Court judge rejected Heritage’s $40m request for summary judgement, but allowed certain claims to proceed to trial. The judge said Rubinger may have violated the non-compete clause in his contract but ruled he did not breach a ‘non-solicitation’ covenant in his contract when he brought Koffsky and Donovan with him.

A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for March 8.

A Christie’s spokeswoman said: “Christie’s is very pleased with the court’s decision on the parties’ motions and looks forward to the complete resolution of this case on the merits in the future.” 

A Heritage spokesman said: “The judge ruled that Heritage’s two-year non-compete agreement with its former director of Luxury Accessories is valid and enforceable, and that Christie’s did not escape liability simply by moving him from New York to Hong Kong.”

Heritage said the question of the extent to which the non-compete clause was violated will be decided in court.