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Tiffany Hits Overstock.com With Five More Lawsuits

NEW YORK — Tiffany & Co. stepped up efforts against Overstock.com, filing five lawsuits in one day against the Salt Lake City-based online retailer.<BR><BR>The complaints, which were filed on Jan. 19 in Manhattan federal court, center on the...

NEW YORK — Tiffany & Co. stepped up efforts against Overstock.com, filing five lawsuits in one day against the Salt Lake City-based online retailer.

The complaints, which were filed on Jan. 19 in Manhattan federal court, center on the sale of bracelets and necklaces incorporating what Tiffany alleges are knockoffs of its popular Open Heart and Bean pendants.

The accusations include trademark infringement, copyright infringement and use of false designations of origin. Tiffany is seeking $150,000 in statutory damages as well as an unspecified amount in punitive damages in each case.

Overstock.com did not comment on the matter by press time.

The new complaints bring the number of lawsuits Tiffany has pending against Overstock up to six.

The heart and bean pendant designs were the focus of Tiffany’s original suit, filed on Oct. 17, 2003, in which the company accused Overstock and a Canadian-based shipping operation of knowingly selling counterfeit items to customers of its Web site as genuine Tiffany products. According to the complaint, the pendants were advertised on the Web site as Tiffany products and were sent to customers in the distinctive “Tiffany Blue” packaging.

In an amended complaint filed on Nov. 20, 2003, Tiffany accused Overstock of using a forged invoice in an effort to prove to customers that the items on its site were legitimate Tiffany products. Included in the complaint was an e-mail that Patrick Byrne, Overstock.com’s chairman and president, sent customers who had purchased the “Tiffany Sterling Silver Heart Pendant” assuring them of  its legitimacy.

According to Byrne’s e-mail, Overstock sold several thousand pendants in a matter of days. However, some of those customers then took the pendants to Tiffany stores and were informed the products were counterfeit.

“We conducted a secondary investigation into the lineage of these pendants, confirming Tiffany as the source,” said Byrne in the letter, going on to provide a Web link to an alleged invoice from Tiffany.

“Why might an employee of any store disclaim our product, if it were genuine? I am not commenting on any particular company’s practices when I say: It is common in this industry,” said Byrne.

Byrne also addressed complaints about imperfections some customers had noticed in the pendants, saying that due to the high volume of product being shipped it was “not unusual” that items were damaged. However, customer complaints prompted the company to take another look at the items. “Because of these letters we reinspected the inventory and noticed that some of the pendants have small cosmetic blemishes that might be unacceptable to some customers, whereas some (such as myself) would probably not notice them,” said Byrne.

Overstock.com received a cease and desist letter from Tiffany’s legal representative with Dorsey & Whitney LLP on Oct. 7, 2003. Jonathan E. Johnson, Overstock’s lawyer, responded in a letter dated Oct. 10, assuring Tiffany’s lawyer that “Overstock.com’s confidential source has repeatedly assured Overstock.com that the pendant was a genuine Tiffany product.” The letter also made reference to Overstock’s “second investigation into the lineage of the pendant,” confirming Tiffany as the producer.