Friday, December 16, 2011

If Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery…

Karisma ring by Royal Chain

I recently read that Jewel Pop has settled its lawsuit against Royal Chain. For those not familiar with this product, Jewel Pop is the maker of Kameleon jewelry. It is a jewelry line where the outer holder can swap out different centers. It’s basically interchangeable jewelry. I saw a video once and the demonstrator made it look simple. Hold the special tool at the back of the holder and press down, out pops the center piece. The wearer can then change to a number of different center pieces in a variety of designs and colors. Apparently Royal Chain had introduced a Karisma Jewelry line that did the same thing.

Kameleon ring by Jewel Pops, what do you think, is Karisma the same?

The concept of interchangeable jewelry is not entirely new. Obviously stackable ring and charm bracelets have cornered the market for years and many people have been engaging in this way of wearing their jewelry without the aid of a specific jewelry line. I know women who wear different ring together that they have picked up along the way. Some women have charm bracelets and they’ve adapted earrings and other trinkets to their bracelets. This is always a great way to wear that one earring when it’s lost its mate. I guess it’s the way that Jewel Pop pops out that make them unique but not unique enough if they settled with Royal Chain instead of continuing to pursue their lawsuit. Someone once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; this isn’t true if you’re in retail. Retailers guard their products fiercely. This is also why you can’t compare TVs from Wal-Mart to Best Buy. Each retailer has their own line and while a 42” flat screen may seem the same, there will always be a subtle difference that makes one TV different from another.

Still prefer Stackable Expressions

These differences also keep retailers from having to deal with their advertising claims, “If you find the same product at another store for less, we’ll refund the difference.” For high ticket items like TVs you don’t want to be refunding the difference. This would be similar to Cartier claiming that if you found a Panther Bracelet for less somewhere else they would give you a discount. This is obviously impossible since Cartier is the only one who makes the Panther Bracelets. I wonder if someone took the time and care to make a bracelet similar to the Panther Bracelet would they infringe on their trademark. Cartier is the first company to have this design and I’m sure they took the time to file a patent or trademark but what if they didn’t? What if someone put together a Lion bracelet and set it with gemstones, would this be infringement? It’s hard to say since it is all speculation and most law professors tell their students not to deal in “what ifs” deal with the facts.

The fact is Royal Chain settled and there doesn’t appear in this early stage that they are required to cease all production of their Karisma Jewelry line. The two manufacturers will continue with business as usual. Jewel Pop probably realized that their jewelry line is innovative but not entirely unique and other manufacturers will come along and make something similar. It might not be a good idea to pursue a lawsuit and expend a great deal of money and energy where you may lose. It is probably prudent for Jewel Pop to take the settlement, let Royal Chain continue but work harder to establish brand supremacy. Jewel Pop is the original after all or at least according to them. So if someone imitates you, you can either be flattered, or in the case of Jewel Pop, sue, the choice is yours.

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