December 24, 2018
Some furniture being sold on Amazon this holiday season is not “sitting well” with housewares designer and retailer Williams-Sonoma. The San Francisco-based home furnishing chain brought suit against Amazon on December 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, asking for damages and injunctive relief.
The basis for the legal complaint? Williams-Sonoma claims that the online merchant has used its proprietary designs, patents, and common law trademarks to sell copies of its “home goods, lamps, chairs, and other furniture and lighting products”
Specifically, the suit alleges that Amazon’s line of Rivet furniture includes products that are “strikingly similar” to those made by Williams-Sonoma’s West Elm unit—among them, a $300 Orb Upholstered Dining Chair that the household goods maker introduced two years ago, SF Gate reported on December 18,
According to a report by The Washington Post, “It’s widely known that third-party vendors sell counterfeit products on Amazon, but the company has sidestepped blame in the past by claiming it merely provides the platform and can’t control those vendors. This complaint is different. The knockoff Williams-Sonoma products are being sold and marketed by Amazon itself, putting Amazon in direct competition with Williams-Sonoma, according to the company’s lawyers.”
Although Williams-Sonoma doesn’t license its branded products to other online retailers, Amazon markets some merchandise on its website as Williams-Sonoma products “in a confusing manner that is likely to lead, and has led, customers to believe” that they are buying licensed Williams-Sonoma goods, the complaint says.
Williams-Sonoma notes in its legal filing that, “Among the harm caused by Amazon’s infringing acts, consumers may come to associates [our] Williams-Sonoma [trademark] with overpriced, low-quality, or potentially unsatisfactory goods or services.”
The company claims that, already, “Many of these products have been the subject of customer complaints on the Amazon website, are not subject to WSI’s quality control measures, and/or have been damaged or altered such that the Williams-Sonoma mark no longer properly applies.”
The Post also reports that Amazon has marketed the knockoff Williams-Sonoma products through targeted emails—and to make matters worse, one such email was sent to the president of Williams-Sonoma, Janet Hayes. Court documents show an email Hayes received with the subject line “Janet: Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark 1 Pound Tin and more items for you,” which linked to a holiday candy priced at almost double what Williams-Sonoma sells it for.
Williams-Sonoma is requesting damages of up to $2 million per counterfeit item being sold by Amazon, as well as legal costs.