Williams-Sonoma, maker of the West Elm brand, has filed a lawsuit against Amazon accusing Amazon of patent infringement, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, trademark counterfeiting, and unfair competition in the US District Court of Northern California. Law.com, Bloomberg, and Furniture Today have the news.
Amongst Williams-Sonoma’s primary claims that we read in the suit are:
- That Amazon is not an authorized reseller of Williams-Sonoma brand items, yet Amazon strongly implies that it is such an authorized reseller by the way it presents Williams-Sonoma brand items for sale on its website.
- That Amazon copied patented or trademarked furniture designs (like the Orb Chair and the Slope Dining Chair) in products Amazon created under its Rivet private label furniture brand.
This is the first time Amazon has been sued for infringing private label product designs that we are aware of. We are not lawyers, but we anticipate this case could reveal interesting claims from both sides if it proceeds. Obviously, the designs cited by Williams-Sonoma appear very similar.
In general, Amazon has recently been aggressively expanding its array of private label brands and products, as we have been tracking here at TJI, in what appears to be a long-term strategy to grow its “Our Brands” program and offerings.
As a potential first step of response, possibly as a result of the suit (though we cannot be certain because we have not seen or heard any official comments from Amazon on this), Amazon appears to have removed certain Rivet furniture from its website that Williams-Sonoma cited as patent or trademark infringing in its lawsuit. For example, these items are no longer for sale on Amazon.com, but are still in Google’s cache:
- Rivet Modern Upholstered Orb Office Chair, 24.4″W (Google Cache)
- Rivet Modern Upholstered Orb Office Chair, 20″H (Google Cache)
- Rivet Industrial Slope Top-Grain Leather Swivel Office Chair, 24.41″W (Google Cache)
We will keep an eye on further developments as this case unfolds.