Earlier this month, in the Northern District of California, Emeco
Industries initiated a trademark case against Restoration Hardware, accusing
the luxury home furnishings purveyor of infringing Emeco's trade dress and
trademark rights in its Navy Chair ® collection. Emeco describes Restoration
Hardware's "Naval Chair" line of chairs and stools as "blatant, cheap knockoffs"
and accuses Restoration Hardware of misleadingly suggesting that its chairs are
Founded in 1944, Emeco was commissioned by the Navy during
World War II to build chairs for use on warships and submarines. Emeco's Navy Chair
® is constructed by hand, one at a time, through a manufacturing process
consisting of 77 independent steps. To this day, the US government continues to
purchase Emeco Navy Chairs ® for Navy ships and subs.
Emeco commenced its trademark case with some harsh
words for Restoration Hardware. Emeco's trademark complaint states:
Restoration Hardware has stated,
emphatically, that "[a]t our core we are not designers, rather we are curators
and composers of inspired design and experiences." In fact, Restoration is not
a "curator" or "composer" of others' "inspired designs"; it is a counterfeiter
of them. ... Having been sued for copying more than half a dozen times in the
past decade, Restoration Hardware's current activities are part of an
established practice of infringing others' designs and trademarks for financial
Emeco accuses Restoration Hardware of attempting to grow
revenue rapidly without significant investment in the design and development of
its own products. Citing public filings, Emeco points out that Restoration
Hardware can reduce its production time and costs by "'[e]xternally
discover[ing] and curat[ing]' others' designs, as opposed to '[i]nternally
design[ing] and develop[ing]' its own products."
Emeco goes on to note that prior to the filing of its
trademark case, Restoration Hardware, "in a clear admission as to the
confusingly similar nature of the 'Naval Chair' name," modified its website to
remove all references to "Naval Chair" in describing its chairs and stools. According to Emeco's trademark complaint, the infringing products remained for sale but under the newly named "Aluminum"
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