click image to zoom ZEELAND, MI - Herman Miller has filed suit against Toronto-based Nuevo Americana Inc. for trademark and copyright infringement and unfair competition of its Eames furniture. The suit, filed Nov. 5 in U.S. District Court, charges Nuevo with causing “consumer confusion” through its sale of Eames look-alike office furniture, specifically the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, Eames Aluminum Group and Eames Soft Pad chairs.
According to the suit, the Eames name has been associated with Herman Miller furniture since 1951. In 1982, the contract furniture manufacturer was issued a trademark registration for exclusive rights to the Eames designation on furniture. In addition, since 2003 Herman Miller has held a trademark registration for exclusivity of the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman design, while the frame design for the Eames Aluminum Group and Soft Pad chairs has been under trademark to Herman Miller since 2006.
The lawsuit contends “Nuevo’s knockoff furniture is identical with, or substantially indistinguishable from the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, the Eames Aluminum Group and Soft Pad products, and other Eames Herman Miller products.” The furniture in question is produced and promoted by Nuevo under the Sonoma, Churchill, Vesper and Soprano names.
“Nuevo sells its knockoff furniture items, directly or indirectly, to retailers who sell the knockoff furniture to consumers, sometimes in connection with the Eames trademark,” the suit claims, at substantially less prices.
Herman Miller's online store lists the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman for $4,449, compared to the Nuevo Sonoma version selling on various websites for $2,300 or less. Likewise, the Eames Aluminum Group Management Chair can be purchased from Herman Miller’s site for $1,839, compared to the Nuevo Churchill which one site listed at $562.
Aside from the price discrepency, the similarity in style and “Nuevo’s said use is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception as to the source of origin, sponsorship, or approval of Nuevo’s products, in that purchasers or others are likely to believe Nuevo’s products are Herman Miller’s products or the products of a company legitimately connected with, approved by, or related to Herman Miller,” the suit contends.
Herman Miller is seeking an injunction to stop Nuevo from permanently manufacturing and selling the “counterfeit” furniture products, as well as have all remaining inventory and related promotional materials destroyed. The company also is requesting all profits from the sales of these items be turned over to Herman Miller.
Herman Miller also is seeking damages three times the amount of the profits, plus attorney fees and costs. The company is requesting a jury trial.