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Macy’s East, Merit Diamond Facing Morelli Copyright Suit

NEW YORK — Merit Diamond Corp. and Macy’s East Inc. will go to trial for copyright infringement after a court found them liable for knocking off a collection created by Paul Morelli Design Inc.<br><br>The United States District Court for...

NEW YORK — Merit Diamond Corp. and Macy’s East Inc. will go to trial for copyright infringement after a court found them liable for knocking off a collection created by Paul Morelli Design Inc.

This story first appeared in the July 28, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Thursday ordered that Macy’s East and Merit will go to trial on Aug. 25 to determine the damages for selling a necklace and earring design that infringed on Morelli’s copyright of its Wavy Vine collection.

All claims against Macy’s parent Federated Department Stores Inc. were dismissed.

Among the court’s findings were “similarities in the composition and layout of the two necklaces,” and “the earrings are strikingly similar.” Since “the Morelli and the Merit jewelry appear similar to the ordinary observer,” the court determined the Merit jewelry was not independently created and Merit copied Morelli’s Wavy Vine line, for which the designer holds valid copyrights.

Buttressing the court’s order, it found Morelli, who created the design in 1995 and sold it in 1996, saw a necklace which he believed was similar to the Wavy Vine necklace in a Macy’s catalog in 1999.

Morelli’s collection was first depicted in the firm’s product book in 1998, displayed at trade shows in 1996 and 1997 and appeared in an advertisement in the April 1997 edition of the Neiman Marcus magalog. Merit’s similar necklace was manufactured in 1998, the court said.

While Morelli retains the drawings, wax carving models, castings and rubber molds of the pieces created, the court said Merit has “no design books or other documentation to corroborate its claim of independent creation” of its jewelry. Furthermore, the court determined Merit “is known as a diamond company and not as a jewelry designer.”