SAN FRANCISCO--(Emeco Industries, Inc. has filed for a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court here, seeking a range of remedies, including blocking Restoration Hardware from “manufacturing, marketing, advertising, and selling” its cheap knockoffs of Emeco’s iconic “Navy Chair®” collection.)--
“there is nothing to stop it from resuming its unlawful conduct at any moment”
“We’re not going to stand by while Restoration Hardware steals our brand and trades on our reputation by selling an inferior product,” said Emeco CEO Gregg Buchbinder. “It’s important for American companies to stand up for craftsmanship, quality and jobs. We not only want to stop Restoration Hardware but prevent others from doing similar damage to our economy.”
Unlike Restoration Hardware’s foreign-made knockoffs, Emeco’s Navy Chair® is hand made by 54 craftspeople in Hanover, Pennsylvania, through a 77-step process. The company works with top designers and uses recycled waste to make high-quality, sustainable products. The Navy Chair®, which is sold in 48 countries, is built to last 150 years.
The latest legal action comes as The New York Times published an article about the company’s efforts to protect the world-renowned “Navy Chair®”, which the newspaper said “is at the core of Emeco’s business.”
In the article, “Once Again, Seeing Double,” writer Julie Lasky quoted Buchbinder as saying: “The Navy chair is what we center everything around. It’s the heritage of our company.” Emeco’s CEO later added: “If I don’t fight, it kills the company.”
The motion, tentatively set for a hearing on Nov. 16, follows a federal lawsuit filed Oct. 1 against Restoration Hardware and its former CEO and present “Creator and Curator” Gary Friedman. The complaint alleges that the giant home furnishing retailer has engaged in “willful and flagrant infringement” of Emeco’s trade dress and trademark rights for its world-renowned Navy Chair® by selling a series of cheap knockoffs with the near-identical “Naval Chair” name.
In seeking the injunction, Emeco argues that Restoration Hardware’s actions “will continue to cause irreparable harm to Emeco’s reputation” unless the court intervenes. Emeco alleges that the knockoffs are a product of “willful, intentional conduct that is part of Restoration Hardware’s established practice of using others’ designs and trademarks for financial gain.”
The motion points out that Restoration Hardware has been the focus of a half-dozen copying and infringement actions over the last decade, and cites a newspaper article in which the company is referred to as “Replication Hardware.’”
Emeco says Restoration Hardware has in effect conceded a likelihood of consumer confusion over the chairs by removing the words “Naval Chair” from its website, and then, after the lawsuit was filed, apparently ceasing sales of the products. Nevertheless, Emeco argues that the injunction is necessary because Restoration Hardware already distributed millions of catalogs featuring the infringing products and continues to display the chairs on its website. And without an injunction, “there is nothing to stop it from resuming its unlawful conduct at any moment,” the motion says.
Emeco began production of the Navy Chair® in 1944 under contract with the United States Navy, which wanted a chair capable of withstanding fire, weather, war and sailors. Because of its light weight and durability, the chair soon became a fixture across America in police stations, prisons, schools and hospitals. As the Navy Chair® became a design icon, it graced the covers of fashion magazines, appeared in Hollywood movies, and was ordered by restaurants and other establishments worldwide. Celebrated for its craftsmanship and sustainable composition, the Navy Chairs® is now in permanent collections in art museums around the world.
Several years ago, Emeco formed a joined venture with Coca-Cola to reduce the number of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles ending up in the U.S. landfills. Today, each Navy Chair is made with 111 up-cycled Coca-Cola PET bottles. By this year, the Emeco/Coca-Cola partnership had taken more than eight million plastic bottles out of landfills.
Emeco has collaborated with the world’s best designers, starting with Philippe Starck in 2000, with whom it developed a series of products, including the “Hudson” chair, designed for the Hudson Hotel. In 2001, the Hudson won the GOOD Design Award and was accepted into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
In 2004, Emeco CEO Buchbinder began working with Frank Gehry to develop “Superlight,” which won a GOOD design award and was accepted into the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Pinakotherk in Munich. In 2005, designer Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Design Group Designworks USA and Foster and Partners designed “20-06,” a stacking chair for the 2006 Smithsonian addition in Washington, DC. “20-06” won a Good Design, a Spark Design Award and the 2008 Baden-Württemberg International Design Award for environmentally progressive new products.
In 2008, Emeco launched the “Nine-O Collection” by Ettore Sottsass and the following year the “Morgans” chair by Andrée Putman, designed for the restored Morgans Hotel in New York City. In 2010, Emeco launched the “Lancaster Collection,” designed by British designer Michael Young.
Emeco is on the leading edge of a movement in product development that promises a new, more intelligent and sustainable way of life. Producing up-cycled chairs and stools in collaboration with some of the world’s leading designers, architects, institutions, and respected global brands, Emeco and its partners share a commitment to a better, more beautiful future.