Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse in Fake Knives Suit
(NEW YORK) -- Many consumers love the Solingen knives Martha Stewart sells under the Emeril Lagasse brand, but a city in Germany doesn’t.
According to a lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court in Florida by Solingen, Germany’s Chamber of Commerce and Commerce Wuppertal-Solingen-Remscheid, a trade association that holds the rights to the Solingen name, the Solingen trade name was first used in 1853 and trademarked in the U.S. in 1974. In 1994, Germany protected the mark again with the “Solingen Decree,” which mandates that -- like Champagne -- Solingen products are not allowed to be produced outside the specified area.
With that in mind, the Chamber sued Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Emeril Lagasse, HSNI LLC dba Home Shopping Network, and SED International Holdings, which distributes the knives. The claim? That the knives Lagasse hawks are “counterfeit” because they are marked with Emeril’s signature trademark and ‘Solingen, Germany’ “on one side of the blade, and ‘China’ -- where they are manufactured -- on the other side.
“Real” Solingen knives simply say Solingen on one side, which certifies that the products “are of a certain origin and comply with extremely high and specific standards of manufacture,” the lawsuit claims.
According to the complaint, which was reported in Courthouse News, Martha Stewart’s company “was and is responsible and in charge of the Emeril brand, which includes the licensing, advertising, promotion, distribution, and sales of the Counterfeit Products.” Lagasse sells his knives on HSN.com.
The lawsuit cites one woman who said the only reason she bought the knives was because they were made in Germany, and that she was appalled to discover they were made in China. Another customer cited in the suit claimed the knives were “rusting and breaking in half.”
The Chamber is seeking $2 million in statutory damages for each trademark violation, or triple damages of “illicit profits,” triple damages for false advertising and unfair competition, plus reasonable attorney and investigative fees.
A spokesperson for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia would not comment. Reps for HSN and SED International did not return phone calls from ABC News.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio