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Court: Sale of engagement rings violated trademark laws

Trademarks are an excellent way to protect a company's logo or brand. Companies in New York can register trademarks to prevent competitors or other entities from illegally using their name or logo to promote their own agenda. Further, as a recent case involving Tiffany & Co. illustrates, taking the right measures will ensure that when a dispute arises, the law will side with the trademark.

Costco has been selling engagement rings that it marketed as "Tiffany" rings. The company placed signs in jewelry cases that said "Tiffany." In a lawsuit filed in 2013, New York-based Tiffany & Co. alleges that the rings were not actually Tiffany branded. The suit seeks punitive damages for the high-end retailer. Costco filed a countersuit, alleging that the name "Tiffany" actually refers to a type of ring.

A federal court rejected Costco's argument this month. The court determined that the company broke federal trademark laws. Therefore, the court determined, the company will be liable for both trademark counterfeiting and trademark infringement. A jury will later decide how much, if any, punitive damages will be assessed.

Companies that have a brand need to understand the value of that brand. In this case, Tiffany & Co. knows that people will seek out engagement rings based solely on the Tiffany name. The business did the right thing in pursuing a claim for trademark infringement after Costco tried to capitalize on the brand. Anyone who has questions regarding intellectual property protection and how to put it in place should consult with an attorney.

Source: New York Times, " Tiffany Triumphs in Costco Dispute," Sept. 8, 2015

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