Emeco Sues Restoration Hardware for Allegedly Stealing Its Iconic “Navy Chair®” Design

Emeco's iconic Navy Chair(R) has won design awards, is in permanent collections in museums around th ...

“What Restoration Hardware is trying to do is bad for the American consumer, bad for American jobs and bad for the global environment.”
--Gregg Buchbinder, Emeco CEO.

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Emeco Industries, Inc., the genuine handcraft company based in Hanover, Pennsylvania, today sued home furnishing giant Restoration Hardware and its former CEO and present “Creator and Curator” Gary Friedman, asserting claims for trade dress and trademark counterfeiting and infringement.

Emeco's iconic Navy Chair(R) has won design awards, is in permanent collections in museums around the world, and is sold in 48 countries through authentic retail furniture and design stores. (Photo: Business Wire)

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco in the United States District Court, alleges that Restoration Hardware has engaged in willful and flagrant infringement of Emeco’s trade dress and trademark rights for its world-renowned Navy Chair® by selling a series of cheap knockoffs with the near-identical “Naval Chair” name that copy verbatim the iconic and highly distinctive design of the Navy Chair®. The irreparable harm caused by Restoration Hardware, an established company, to Emeco’s reputation and significant goodwill is massive, incomparable to that caused by a typical, small-time counterfeiter. Emeco has filed this action to halt that harm and protect its exclusive rights. Emeco seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop Restoration Hardware’s unlawful conduct and the damages to which the law entitles it.

The allegedly illegally manufactured counterfeits also include the, “Navy Armchairs”, “Navy Barstools” and “Navy Counter stools”. Featured on page 94 of the Fall 2012 Restoration Hardware catalog is a photo layout of no less than four “Naval Chairs” and “Naval Stools,” exact counterfeits of Emeco’s Navy Chair® Collection.

Emeco’s quality guarantee of The Navy Chair® is the result of elaborate and precise specifications developed by the U.S. Navy in 1944 in conjunction with ALCOA Aluminum. These specifications are still used by the craftsmen at Emeco in a unique 77-step process that meets the most stringent American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA) standards. The chairs are tested to last 150 years.

“Emeco is an American success story that has demonstrated to the market its value and sustainability,” said Emeco CEO Gregg Buchbinder. “We create American jobs and work with the best designers to manufacture a product respected and sought after around the world. For us, stealing our Navy Chair® design is like stealing the Nike Swoosh or the Mercedes Benz logo, and then exploiting our brand and reputation to produce an inferior product.”

Restoration Hardware distributed approximately 26.1 million catalogs nationwide in its last fiscal year. By allegedly hijacking the Emeco brand, consumers are likely to believe that the products Restoration Hardware sells are genuine, legitimate articles. Restoration Hardware has prominently marketed and advertised its chairs and stools with the “Naval” name in its print catalog and on its website.

Restoration Hardware stated in its pre-IPO filings that, “at our core we are not designers, rather we are curators and composers of inspired design and experiences.” By “[e]xternally discover[ing] and curat[ing]” others’ designs, as opposed to “[i]nternally design[ing] and develop[ing]” its own products, Restoration Hardware can cut the product development process from “12-18 months lead time” to “3-9 months lead time” and “reduce product costs.” By contrast, it takes Emeco approximately 2 to 4 years to design, prototype, research and develop, engineer, and tool to launch a product that will last a lifetime.

Emeco has been the leading manufacturer of handcrafted aluminum chairs for 68 years. The company remains committed to the principles and values that built the business in 1944, when the United States Navy came to Hanover to help develop an incredible new piece of furniture. As specified by the Navy contract, the chair had to be capable of withstanding fire, weather, war and sailors. Because of its light weight and durability, the chairs soon became synonymous with American institutions from police stations and prisons to schools and hospitals. It did not take long for the chair to become a design icon. The Navy Chairs® have graced the cover of fashion magazines, appeared in Hollywood movies like Avatar and Batman, and have been ordered by restaurants and other establishments worldwide from Dean and Deluca to the St. Martins Hotel in London. The Navy Chair® is in the permanent collections of museums around the world, including the Design Museum in London and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Emeco sells its Navy Chair® to trade architects and designers, governments, contract dealers and international distributors in 48 countries through authentic retail furniture and design stores, such as Design Within Reach.

In 2006, Coca-Cola approached Emeco with a problem: the growing number of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles ending up in the U.S. landfills. Emeco took on the challenge of reinventing the material for the classic Navy Chair® with the Emeco and Coca-Cola Joint Venture Agreement, and today each Navy Chair is made with 111 up-cycled Coca-Cola PET bottles. In 2010, the 111 Navy Chair® won the GOOD DESIGN Award and the IF International Design Forum Product Design Award, and in 2012 the 111 Navy Chair® has taken more than eight million plastic bottles out of landfills.

More than 12 years ago, Emeco began collaborating with the world’s best designers, starting with Philippe Starck in 2000. Together, they developed series of products, including the “Hudson,” designed for the Hudson Hotel. In 2001, the Hudson chair won the GOOD Design Award and was accepted into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. In 2004, Emeco CEO Buchbinder began working with Frank Gehry to develop “Superlight,” which won a GOOD design award and was accepted into the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Pinakotherk in Munich. In 2005, designer Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Design Group Designworks USA, and Foster and Partners designed “20-06,” a stacking chair for the 2006 Smithsonian addition in Washington, DC. “20-06” won a Good Design, a Spark Design Award and the 2008 Baden-Württemberg International Design Award for environmentally progressive new products. In 2008, Emeco launched the “Nine-O Collection” by Ettore Sottsass and in the following year the “Morgans” chair by Andrée Putman, designed for the restored Morgans Hotel in NYC. In 2010, Emeco launched the “Lancaster Collection,” designed by British designer Michael Young.

Emeco is on the leading edge of a movement in product development that promises a new, more intelligent and sustainable way of life. Producing up-cycled chairs and stools in collaboration with some of the world’s leading designers, architects, and partnering with the most respected global brands and businesses, institutions and organizations, Emeco and its partners share a commitment to a better, more beautiful future.

Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/multimedia/home/20121001006722/en/

Emeco Industries, Inc.
Lia Forslund, Director of Communications
Magnuson & Company
Bob Magnuson

Source: Emeco Industries, Inc.