California Trademark Case Accuses Restoration Hardware of Furniture "Counterfeiting"

California Trademark Case Accuses Restoration Hardware of Furniture "Counterfeiting"

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 American-made.

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 gain.

(footnotes omitted)

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" line. 

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