On September 9, 2015, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Costco was willfully infringing Tiffany & Co.’s trademarks by selling diamond engagement rings bearing the renowned jewelry retailer’s name. The suit started back in 2012 when a patron of Costco in Huntington Beach, California decided to reach out to Tiffany to express her disappointment in Tiffany offering its rings for sale at Costco. She also stated that the rings were being promoted on signs within the store as Tiffany diamond engagement rings. After receiving the complaint and knowing that it did not sell its rings through Costco, Tiffany launched an investigation revealing that the Huntington Beach Costco was in fact displaying diamond engagement rings in a case labeled with the word Tiffany. The investigation also revealed that the Costco salespeople were referring to them as Tiffany engagement rings. Accordingly, Tiffany took action.
According to the Court’s ruling, prior to the lawsuit, Costco promised that it would remove references to Tiffany from its display case signs and even sent a letter to customers who bought the rings offering a full refund if they were not satisfied. Irrespective of these acts, Tiffany filed suit, ironically enough, on February 14, 2013. In response, Costco filed a counterclaim alleging that Tiffany’s trademarks were invalid because they sought to prevent others from using the word “Tiffany” as a generic description of a type of ring setting. Almost a year and a half later, the Court ruled in favor of Tiffany and against Costco. Specifically, Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled that the evidence established that Costco had infringed Tiffany’s trademarks by selling engagement rings and had confused consumers by using the word Tiffany in display cases. Judge Swain ruled that “Despite Costco’s arguments to the contrary, the court finds that, based on the record evidence, no rational finder of fact could conclude that Costco acted in good faith in adopting the Tiffany mark.”