Happy belated Valentine’s Day, Costco, here’s a lawsuit.
Tiffany & Co. filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against Costco yesterday alleging that the discount chain sold “hundreds if not thousands” of incorrectly labeled Tiffany diamond rings for years before its cover was blown in 2012. According to court papers, an unidentified customer was shopping at a Costco store in Huntington Beach, California in November when she spotted rings that were labeled as “Tiffany”. She tipped off Tiffany, who then launched an investigation and discovered that Costco was selling several different types of rings that were wrongly identified as Tiffany, and has been doing so for years.
The suit alleges “trademark infringement, counterfeiting, unfair competition, injury to business reputation, false advertising, and deceptive business practices” — basically, a lot of stuff. It claims that two platinum rings with round diamond settings à la Tiffany were being sold at Costco for $3,199.99 and $6,399.99 each. Images of the rings were not released, but we spotted a ring still available for $6,399.99 on the Costco website that bears a striking similarity to a Tiffany design, which retails for $11,000. You can see the side-by-side images below.
The New York Post reports that according to the claim:
“The Costco salesperson also referred to each of the rings as a ‘Tiffany ring, … and said the store generally carries one of each item. Neither of the rings … was, in fact, a Tiffany ring, nor was it manufactured by, approved by, licensed by or otherwise in any way properly associated with Tiffany.”
Tiffany’s counsel, Jeffrey Mitchell, wrote in a statement:
“We now know that there are at least hundreds if not thousands of Costco members who think they bought a Tiffany engagement ring at Costco, which they didn’t. Costco knew what it was doing when it used the Tiffany trademark to sell rings that had nothing to do with Tiffany. This is not the kind of behavior people expect from a company like Costco, and this case will shed a much needed light on this outrageous behavior.”
Mitchell and Tiffany are asking for $2 million in damages for each infringement, and three times the profit that Costco made from selling the faux Tiffany rings. Ouch.
Check out the Costco and Tiffany rings below, and tell us what you think: did Costco knock off Tiffany?