April 14, 2005
Boin Sues Retailer
Jewelry designer Whitney Boin, founder of the International Jewelry Design Guild, is taking one of his own retailers to court for allegedly trying to pass off a counterfeit wedding ring as a designer original. "It's a case of a trusted jewelry retailer behaving in a less than sterling manner to a customer and to me," alleged Boin in a press release.
In the suit, Boin claims a consumer called his New York studio in December 2004 to order a custom-made engagement ring using a diamond from his grandmother's ring. The consumer was told the order had to be placed through a local retailer with exclusive distribution rights for Whitney Boin jewelry in the consumer's area.
Boin alleges the retailer gave the job to a jewelry counterfeiter who copied Boin's bridal ring design. After the consumer paid for the ring, his fiancée noticed that there was no Whitney Boin trademark stamp on her ring. The consumer called Boin, which led to the suit. The retailer has been Boin's retail partner for many years.
The suit alleges copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition and breach of the exclusive distribution contract with Whitney Boin Studio. The complaint seeks damages up to $150,000, plus court costs and attorney's fees. Attorneys for Boin are Phillips Nizer LLP in New York and Andrews Kurth LLP in Houston.
When contacted by Professional Jeweler, the retailer had no comment about the specific allegations, but said his company is attempting to resolve the matter.
The case points up the importance designers place on protecting their copyrights and trademarks from infringement. The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in suits by designers of jewelry and watches when they believe their intellectual property rights have been violated. As Professional Jeweler has noted in past articles, the costs for intentional violation of a designer's trademark or copyright can be very high. Costs include damages for losses suffered by the brand owner and can include statutory and punitive damages, court costs, expert and attorney fees. These costs can be many times the actual damage or loss suffered by the mark holder.
For more information: go to www.professionaljeweler.com, click on Archives and search for copyright infringement.
- by William H. Donahue Jr.