Legal fight wake-up call for jewellers
By Aaron Weinman
In a lesson for jewellery retailers and suppliers, two jewellery designers are headed to the Australian Federal Court over copyright claims.
Melbourne-based jeweller Fiorina has commenced legal action against Von Treskow Jewellers, claiming it copied up to 20 of its jewellery designs. Fiorina has requested that Von Treskow be prevented from further reproduction of its designs, advertising or selling them.
Fiorina is suing Von Treskow director Peter Lemmen, his daughter Eva Lemmen and his associated companies American Gemstone and Melbourne-based store Jules Jewellery. The company is seeking damages for lost sales and the adverse effects the alleged copyright infringements have had on the Fiorina reputation for creating exclusive designs.
According to reports by Fairfax Media, Lemmen alleges that Fiorina Golotta, Fiorina’s head designer, entered several other stores and verbally abused staff for selling rip-offs of her designs.
Lemmen, who has been in the jewellery business for over 40 years, denies Golotta’s allegations, claiming he designed the jewellery at the centre of the copyright claims in the 1970s.
The two pieces share a striking resemblance, featuring charms, trinkets, antique coins and tassels of a similar nature.
Intellectual property (IP) theft is an ongoing problem for the jewellery industry and many designers have been caught in copyright infringement cases. Renowned brands like Tiffany & Co are constantly at loggerheads against counterfeiters.
The rise of brands and the originality of jewellery design have placed a heavy emphasis on IP law covering copyright, design, trademark and patent legislation.
IP Lawyer, Jonathan Feder of law firm Middletons says many jewellers are at risk of having their designs copied, often without their realising it.
“In an industry like this, your designs are your bread and butter,” Feder has previously told Jeweller. “I think a lot of designers are still very naïve when it comes to protecting their designs.”
According to Feder, jewellers cannot rely on copyright law in all instances. Proving a copyright infringement claim in court is a lengthy and costly procedure.
Von Treskow's bracelet. Spot the difference?
“If the jewellery is commercially produced and isn’t considered a work of craftsmanship, then the person you’re suing can rely on the copyright/design overlap defence,” Feder said. “You might be able to prove infringement but the respondent would still have a complete defence to any copyright infringement claim.”
In his opinion, jewellers should consider registering their designs, which can be done at IP Australia, the government agency responsible for intellectual property administration.
Gavin Lovie, assistant general manager of trademarks and designs at IP Australia, said once completed, registration provides five years of protection.
“In order to register a design, it has to be new and distinctive, therefore it can’t have been released into the marketplace,” Lovie said. “You need to file your design applications before you start to sell or show any potential buyers the designs for your jewellery.”
Trademark and patent registration are other areas of intellectual property law that jewellers should consider when designing pieces. Such laws cover their brand, design and any specific equipment used to manufacture products.
As previously reported by Jeweller the Australian Government launched an educational campaign aimed at designers, mainly in the fashion and accessories industry. Called Fashion Rules, this guide to intellectual property law is aimed at designers in any related industry, particularly jewellery and clothing.
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Posted November 22, 2011