Solingen Claims Martha Sells Phony Knives

     (CN) – Martha Stewart sells phony Solingen knives on the Home Shopping Network, under the Emeril Lagasse brand, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Wuppertal-Solingen-Remscheid claims in Federal Court.
     The German city’s Chamber of Commerce says the Solingen trade name dates back to 1853 and is protected in Germany and the United States. It was trademarked in the United States in 1974, with a first-use date of 1853, according to the complaint.
     The Chamber sued Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Emeril Lagasse, HSNI LLC dba Home Shopping Network, and SED International Holdings, in Miami Federal Court.
     Solingen claims it discovered the trademark violations and unfair competition this spring when it saw Solingen cutlery being sold on the Home Shopping Network, marked with the “Emeril” trademark on one side, and “China” on the other.
     But the Solingen mark certifies that the knives are made in the Solingen area of Germany, the Chamber says.
     Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which is controlled by the home décor goddess, bought the Emeril brand from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse for $50 million and now controls the brand, the Chamber says. It describes defendants Home Shopping Network as a $3 billion enterprise, which “advertises, distributes, promotes, offers, for sale and sells various knife products bearing counterfeits of the Chamber’s federally registered certification mark, in this judicial district and elsewhere through (its) Internet website.”
     The final defendant, SED, “is a multinational distributor of products, and is the exclusive supplier of the Emeril and Emerilware products,” the complaint states. “Upon information and belief, defendant MSLO signed a licensing agreement with SED to give SED the exclusive distribution rights for North America to Lagasse’s cutlery products branded with the Emeril mark.”
     Solingen, whose original products were “mainly swords and daggers,” now makes “wide-ranging” cutlery items, and the Solingen mark “certifies that the goods sold under that brand are of a certain origin and comply with extremely high and specific standards of manufacture,” according to the complaint.
     Germany protected the mark again with special legislation in 1994, called the Solingen Decree. Like the French mark Champagne, then, Solingen products cannot be produced outside the designated area.
     But the complaint states: “Sometime in the late Spring of 2012, Chamber was made aware and began investigating information that some types of cutlery products were being distributed through HSN marked with the Solingen Certification Mark but also marked ‘China.’
     “Chamber investigated this matter and thereafter determined that defendants, individually and/or together, are selling, offering for sale, distributing, promoting and advertising different types of cutlery products in interstate commerce bearing counterfeits and infringement of the Solingen Certification Mark.
     “Defendants are not entitled to use the Solingen Certification Mark in connection with designing, manufacturing, advertising, promoting, distributing, publicly displaying, offering for sale, and/or selling the counterfeit products, as the counterfeit products are made in China and do not comply with the Solingen Decree.
     “The counterfeit products, offered in many different types, are marked with the signature trademark ‘Emerils,’ and ‘Solingen, Germany’ on one side of the blade and on the other side they are marked ‘China.’ The spurious mark and designation used by defendants in interstate commerce are identical with, or substantially indistinguishable from, the Solingen Certification Mark on goods covered by the Solingen Certification Mark.
     “The counterfeit products are not made in Germany and are falsely marked
     ‘Solingen, Germany.’ Upon information and belief, the counterfeit products are made in China and shipped from China to the United States either directly or indirectly from China.”
     Lagasse personally pushes the phony products in “infomercials” on the Home Shopping Network website, the Chamber says. And Martha Stewart’s company, controlled by Martha herself, “was and is responsible and in charge of the Emeril brand, which includes the licensing, advertising, promotion, distribution, and sales of
     the Counterfeit Products,” the complaint states.
     The Chamber says the Chinese-made knives are of poor quality.
     According to the complaint: “On or about May 21, 2012, upon information and belief, a consumer who purchased a 5-inch Santouku Knife bearing a counterfeit of the Solingen Certification Mark wrote a review stating that she was misled by the HSN video as follows: ‘I’m disappointed in the video when Emeril stated that the Santouku knife was made in Germany. This is the main reason I made the purchase. Come to find out it is made in China. That is terrible when a top chef lies to you on tv. Wish I would have known. Emeril cannot be trusted with what he advertises.’ A true and correct copy of the consumer review is attached as Exhibit ‘H.’ Despite this complaint to HSN, HSN and the other defendants continued their infringing conduct and selling the counterfeit products.”
     In July and August this year, the Chamber says, other people who bought the phony knives “complained that the knives were rusting and were breaking in half. A true and correct copy of other consumer reviews is attached as Exhibit ‘I.’ Similarly, despite these complaints to HSN about the poor quality of the counterfeit products, upon information and belief, HSN and the other defendants continued the infringing conduct and selling the counterfeit products.”
     The Chamber seeks $2 million in statutory damages for each trademark violation, or treble damages of illicit profits, treble damages for false advertising and unfair competition, an accounting, punitive damages, and a protective injunction.
     It is represented by Catherine Hoffman with Mayback & Hoffman, or Fort Lauderdale.

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