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Swatch Files Lawsuit Against Target Corp.

The discounter is accused of selling watches that copy Swatch designs.

NEW YORK — Swatch AG has filed a lawsuit against Target Corp., alleging the discounter of selling watches that copy its designs.

This story first appeared in the March 12, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

According to the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Swatch claims Target is committing trade-dress infringement, unfair competition, false advertising and false designation.

The filing includes images of Swatch and Target watches with zebra-printed wristbands, as well as multicolor watches from both companies. Swatch’s round, brightly colored face without numerals are among the item’s elements, the suit notes.

Swatch’s multicolor watch trade dress includes a band designed to wrap around the wearer’s wrist twice, a face that has white numbers one through 12, and a round silver metal winding crown, among other features.

The suit alleges that Target “willfully and intentionally used the Zebra Watch Trade Dress and the Multi-Color Watch Trade Dress” in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception.

Executives at Swatch AG declined to comment Tuesday, as did representatives at its law firm Collen IP.

A Target spokesman said, “It always has been, and continues to be, the policy of Target to respect the intellectual property rights of others and we expect the same from our vendors and partners. However, as this is part of pending litigation, we don’t have any additional information to share.”

Swatch described the quality of Target’s watches as “inferior” to its own and said the continued sale of those watches is likely to confuse shoppers and damage the company’s sales. Swatch’s aim is to have Target cease selling the alleged copies, recoup profits from prior sales and attain damages.

The suit also notes that Swatch “revolutionized the watch industry” in the early Eighties by creating plastic-cased watches consisting of only 51 components, with the first Swatch brand watch being sold in the U.S. in 1982. “Hundreds of millions” of Swatch brand watches have been sold worldwide since, according to the filing.

Based in Bienne, Switzerland, the Swatch brand is part of the Swatch Group, which also owns such higher-end brands as Breguet, Longines, Omega and Harry Winston.