22 July 2024, 22:20
By Furniture News Nov 14, 2023

Teemo sees off copyists with ACID's assistance

Designer and manufacturer Teemo Designs recently took legal action in respect of UK unregistered design right infringement and copyright infringement against LRUK (Retail) Limited t/a La Redoute, a French multichannel retailer in the business of offering to the wider market a variety of products, including furniture.

Teemo markets furniture to a range of household names under its own brand, as well as having a significant white-label offering. Teemo alleged that La Redoute was actively and blatantly infringing several IP rights through selling exact replicas of Teemo’s Barber furniture range.

Through its lawyers, ACID legal affiliate McDaniels Law, Teemo sent a letter before action asserting its rights. There was extensive pre-action correspondence in relation to the claim, in which the defendant was quick to claim independent creation as a defence for most of its products. The defendant cited email correspondence from its designers and manufacturers, with the intent of confirming the same. The defendant conceded, however, relatively early in pre-action correspondence on two of its products, and provided undertakings not to advertise, offer to sell, and/or sell those products.

Kelly Hudson, director at McDaniels Law, says: “It became increasingly clear that a settlement was not forthcoming in the matter and in December 2022, the claimant issued proceedings at the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC, claim number IP-2022-000109). The defendant sought various extensions to file its defence and upon filing of the same, it was clear the defendant’s position had changed substantially from that it set out in over two-years’ worth of pre-action correspondence.

"The defendant, in its defence, disputed it was the proper party to the claim of design right infringement, which was unexpected given it had engaged substantively with the claim on the basis it was. It claimed, in its defence, that the parent company, La Redoute S.A.S was in fact the proper party to the claim and that the defendant was not involved in the design of its products and that it simply imports and sells La Redoute S.A.S products.

Nick Green, MD of Teemo, says: "Shortly before our response to the defence and counterclaim was due to be filed, La Redoute made a Part 36 offer to settle, and we decided to accept this. They undertook not to sell the infringing products and to pay us a sum of damages. Under part 36 rules, they are also liable for some of our costs in line with the court rules which have now also been decided following an application to have them summarily assessed on the papers at the IPEC. I am pleased that this was a successful outcome, reiterating our absolute determination to always enforce our IP rights.”

Dids Macdonald OBE, CEO of ACID, comments: “The ongoing stress, cost, and time that this has caused Teemo is unacceptable, and I am surprised that a company like La Redoute does not have stronger CSR regarding IP ethics, compliance, and respect. I hope they will think seriously about this in the future.”

McDaniels Law also acted on behalf of Teemo Designs in respect of copyright and design right infringement against European outdoor furniture company, Alice’s Garden, a company incorporated in France which has now rebranded as Sweeek. Teemo discovered that Alice’s Garden was "actively and blatantly" infringing several of its IP by selling exact replicas of its Yale furniture range.

Kelly Hudson comments: Teemo instructed us to send a Civil Procedure Rule compliant letter before action to Alice’s Garden in May 2023, asserting its rights. This included sending correspondence to the UK subsidiary company Alice’s Garden UK and the directors in their personal capacity. Ultimately, matters were not pursued against the UK subsidiary company, nor the directors. Alice’s Garden instructed French representatives who confirmed the matter was being investigated, but as a preventative measure, the disputed goods had been removed from sale and a settlement was reached in the matter.

Nick Green adds: “Following some pre-action correspondence, a settlement was reached within two and a half months of the initial correspondence, and resulted in a payment of global sum settlement and signed undertakings from Alice’s Garden. I am delighted that our reputation, in that we will not tolerate any infringement of our IP rights, is growing, and we will not hesitate to take legal action against any company who attempts to erode our market share through copying.”

Dids Macdonald OBE concludes: “Make no mistake, Teemo’s proactive IP strategy is proving positive in that the message is out - they will act decisively if their IP rights are infringed sending a strong deterrent warning shot to those that think they can take the fast track to market.”

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