The Chamber of Industry and Commerce Wuppertal-Solingen-Remscheid (“Solingen”) has commenced an action against Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse, and others for the false labeling of knives with the SOLIGEN mark in the US District Court in Florida.
Solingen is a trade association that holds the rights to the SOLINGEN name. The SOLINGEN trade name was first used in 1853 and was granted a registered US trademark in 1974. The SOLINGEN mark is used to designate and certify that goods bearing the SOLINGEN label are made within a specific geographic region and/or meet certain standards in relation to quality, materials, or manufacturing method as set by the association.
The suit alleges that Stewart, Lagasse, and the other defendants are trading on the good will, name and reputation of SOLINGEN and the brand owners who properly display the SOLINGEN Certification Mark by creating the false impression that the cutlery are genuine products made in Solingen, Germany in compliance with SOLINGEN manufacturing standards.
Many purchasers rely on Certification Marks in order to make purchasing decisions. Some examples of Certification Marks are UL, NSF, Fair Trade, Woolmark, Champagne, Cotton, Cognac, Roquefort, and Sunshine Tree. The purchasing public trusts these standards as an indicator of what they intend to buy. Being such a large company with millions of dollars at stake it is baffling that the product was either not reviewed by intellectual property counsel or that they failed to spot this issue.
Conducting a proper review and comprehensive search prior to labeling (as advised here in my prior post) would have detected this issue before the product was labeled with the infringing mark. Since a proper search was not conducted, SOLINGEN is seeking $24 million in damages. Avoid having costly infringement claims alleged against your company; speak with an attorney to review and clear your product early in the design process.