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Less than a decade after being convicted for obstructing justice and spending five months in jail, Martha Stewart once again faces charges–this time for allegedly selling counterfeit German knives.
The lawsuit was brought in Florida Federal Court by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Wuppertal-Solingen-Remscheid, a German trade association that holds the rights to the Solingen name, and alleges trademark infringement by Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse, and Home Shopping Network.
The complaint accuses Stewart, Lagasse, and HSN of “willing infringement” of the Solingen trademark by knowingly selling and marketing a set of China-made kitchen-knives as German-made, Solingen cutlery. The knives featured the “Emeril” and “Solingen, Germany” marks on one side, while the other side was marked “China.”
This deception upset customers who purchased the knives specifically because they were supposedly made in Solingen, Germany, a area known for its high quality of steel. As the complaint explained, the Solingen trade name dates back to the mid-1800s and represents the finest quality of German cutlery. Now recognized and protected by both German and U.S. laws, the Solingen Certification Mark guarantees that products carrying that branding have specific geographic origin and were created under specific standards of quality.
Yet despite customers’ complaints and this ensuing lawsuit, the cutlery is currently still available on HSN’s online store. Notably, nowhere online is the Solingen mark used or mentioned. The cutlery is marketed online as “forged German steel,” but the website also states that the country of origin is China.
Only time will tell whether Stewart, who is charged in the suit as the “primary controlling force” behind the company, will face another court battle. Certainly, the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce appears to have a strong case of trademark infringement if, in fact, the knives do use the Solingen mark.
The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce is seeking an injunction and damages of up to $2,000,000 for each instance Stewart, Lagasse, and HSN infringed on the mark. But fortunately for all involved, no on should be facing any jail time.
–Emily C. Green
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