July 18, 2003
EGL USA Defends Trademark Protection Steps
EGL International and European Gemological Centers say they are outraged by EGL USA's request that the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to protect the lab against illegal distribution of certificates that violate EGL USA's trademarks through a border ban.
EGL International and EGC say the move will restrict their business in the U.S. "We are disappointed and offended by the legal measures announced by EGL USA," says Guy D. Benhamou, the managing partner of EGL International. "These prevent the use of diamond and colored gemstone grading reports that were issued by members of the EGL network who operate outside the U.S." EGL USA tells Professional Jeweler its actions were valid and necessary to protect its trademark.
Mark Gershburg of EGL USA says his lab is the sole owner of the EGL trademarks in the U.S., and has been since 1986. He adds the Canadian trademark rights extend back to June 1999. "As the owner of these trademarks, EGL USA has the duty and responsibility to stand behind them and to defend them so that the trade is clear whose certificates it is buying," states Gershburg. "U.S. Customs has accepted EGL USA's filing for a border ban of certificates that are in violation of this trademark. They would not have [imposed the border ban] had there been any question as to who owns the trademark."
EGC, in Ramat Gan, Israel, disagrees. "In his statement, EGL-USA's director, Mark Gershburg, said that 'since 1986, EGL-USA has been a privately owned independent gem lab with no formal business relationship with any labs outside North America.' That statement is not only far from the truth, but it is also contradicted by EGL USA itself," says Menachem Sevdermish, EGC president. "The first thing one reads when accessing the home page of EGL-USA's Web site is a statement that says: 'Since 1974, [the] European Gemological Laboratory, the largest network of international gemological laboratories in the world, has stood in the forefront, supplying the jewelry trade with critical information about diamonds and colored gemstones.' By saying that, EGL USA confirms its allegiance with the other labs worldwide, which is a foundation that has also served EGL USA in building its reputation in the American market."
Sevdermish says EGL USA's legal maneuvers have little to do with upholding its North American trademarks and brand he says it's a way to stop fair competition. "Diamonds are a border-crossing commodity, and so are the grading reports that accompany many of them," he sats. "It is safe to assume that diamonds with reports issued by EGL-USA also come to Israel. In fact, I think that at any moment in time we have many hundreds of them circulating here in the market."
EGL USA stands firm, insisting it really is a trademark issue. "For the last few years these labs have been asked to respect our trademark. The only way to defend it is to make sure that only authorized labs that are under its direct supervision and control are permitted to use the EGL trademark. The trade needs to understand that we can only stand behind the reports we have issued in our labs in New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto."
"Naturally, we will do what is necessary to protect our reputation and interests in the international diamond jewelry market," says EGL International's Benhamou. He did not elaborate on just how that will be done.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.