Zettl Files Lawsuit Over Hinged Hoops

June 8, 1999

Zettl Files Lawsuit Over Hinged Hoops

Friedrich Zettl GmbH, which owns a U.S. patent for the popular hinged hoop earring, last week filed a lawsuit for patent infringement against several major retail chains, seeking cumulative losses estimated at more than $50 million.

Zettl named stores such as Bloomingdale's, T.J. Maxx, J.C. Penney, Sears, Saks & Co. and QVC as defendants in the suit, filed in Chicago's Federal Court. According to a company release, the lawsuit alleges the defendants sold hinged hoop earrings that infringed on the patented design, a reversible hoop earring made of two parts joined by an invisible fastening mechanism. The design is protected by U.S. Patent No. 4,694,664, which gives Zettl the exclusive right to manufacture and distribute the earrings in the U.S.

For more than two years Zettl has attempted to enforce the patent, sending cease-and-desist letters through its law firm to retailers and manufacturers it alleges are infringing by selling the design. There has been speculation about which hinged hoops, a trendy jewelry style, violate Zettl's exclusivity, though Zettl officials have indicated they're targeting companies who copy Zettl's specific mechanism.

Zettl also filed a second lawsuit in Miami Federal Court against Fedco Inc. and Fedco Discount Drugs. It claims Fedco is not only selling earrings that infringe on the patent, but that the defendant falsely claims the earrings are of German origin.

- by Stacey King