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Herman Miller sues online retailer over knock-offs COURTESY PHOTO

Herman Miller sues online retailer over knock-offs

BY Tuesday, April 14, 2020 01:10pm

ZEELAND — Office furniture maker Herman Miller Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit against an online retailer for counterfeiting iconic designs from the company’s Design Within Reach Inc. subsidiary. 

Herman Miller (Nasdaq: MLHR) claims “injury from infringement and unfair competition” against Interior Icons, a brand with an undetermined owner that is used in connection with the operation of an e-commerce website, according to filings in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.  

Interior Icons is “now engaged in a dramatic and brazen scheme to undermine Herman Miller’s intellectual property rights and trade on the goodwill Herman Miller has developed in some of the most important and iconic furniture designs of all time,” the Zeeland-based Herman Miller said in the lawsuit. 

Herman Miller holds the intellectual property rights to some iconic designers who have produced works with the company. That includes Charles and Ray Eames, who designed many of the items that comprise Herman Miller’s furniture line. The company has used the Eames name in association with its furniture since the 1950s and trademarked its legacy in 1982. 

A recent resurgence in popularity of mid-century modern designs, which the company claims is driven in part by the pop-culture television show Mad Men, has “encouraged blatant infringement,” according to the court filings. 

Herman Miller is seeking an injunction to stop the sale of the counterfeit items and damages “in an amount to be proven at trial.” Damages for willful counterfeiting are up to $2 million per registration, according to the court filings. 

A representative from Herman Miller declined to comment further for this report, citing the pending litigation. 

Interior Icons also is knocking off the works of other recognizable furniture manufacturers like Knoll Inc., according to Herman Miller. 

According to its website, online retailer Interior Icons claims it was started “out of frustration” over the cost of the furniture. 

“Decades after the deaths of the renowned designers, the prices are unnecessarily high, making them available only to the wealthy,” according to Interior Icons’ website. 

The owner(s) of Interior Icons also claim to manufacture the products in the company’s own facilities. 

As of the time of this report, Interior Icons was still selling furniture with the Eames name on its website with the disclaimer that items are “not manufactured by or affiliated with the original designer(s) and associated parties.”

Herman Miller is being represented in the case by attorneys at Foley & Lardner LLP.

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