Costco is a massive retailer that provides bulk consumables and a range of other products to consumers who pay for a membership. Tiffany & Co. is a high-end jewelry store that is known for superior quality and its familiar light blue packaging. From the outside, it may not seem like these two retailers would have much crossover it terms of what they offer.
However, New Jersey residents may be aware of a trademark infringement case that was filed in federal court by Tiffany & Co. against Costco. Tiffany & Co. alleged that Costco infringed upon its trademark when it offered for sale a diamond ring that was called the “Tiffany.” Tiffany asserted that consumers may be confused by Costco’s product and think that it was offered by Tiffany & Co. A district court agreed with Tiffany & Co. and Costco appealed the decision.
Trademarks are an important business tool that allow entities to protect the logos and other identifying images that distinguish them from others in their industries. They are intended to help consumers identify the makers of the goods they buy and to protect businesses from other entities trying to encroach on their market shares by using similar logos and creating consumer confusion.
In the Costco-Tiffany & Co. case, however, the appellate court sided with Costco and overturned the district court’s judgment. Noting that data offered by Tiffany & Co. may not have been representative of beliefs about the products held by the general public, it sent the matter back to the district court for further review.
Name recognition and brand awareness are critical interests of businesses that want to distinguish themselves from others and that want to secure the visibility of their products in stores. Therefore, protecting trademarks and preventing trademark infringement are significant legal undertakings that businesses can do with the help of intellectual property and trademark attorneys. This post offers no legal advice or guidance.