Tiffany Costco Dispute Over ‘Counterfeit Rings’ Heats Up In The Courtroom

A Tiffany Costco dispute pitting the big-box wholesaler against the famous jewelry company is heating up in the courtroom.

Lawyers representing the companies took to a Manhattan courtroom on Friday as part of a multi-million dollar trademark dispute in a hearing that grew contentious at times.

The heart of the Tiffany Costco dispute is the sale of jewelry at Costco that bears the Tiffany name, though isn’t made by the jewelry company itself. Thousands of “Tiffany” diamond rings are being sold at Costco, and lawyers are arguing whether those infringe on the jeweler’s tradmark.

Costco lawyer James Dabney argued that the wholesaler isn’t actually violating a trademark because the name Tiffany has taken on a general meaning in the marketplace outside of the specific jeweler.

“Tiffany is an eponymous name,” Dabney argued, adding: “It’s like Phillips screwdriver, it’s like Murphy bed, it’s like Ferris wheel.”

According to Costco, Tiffany has come to mean any type of engagement ring in which the stone is set inside of a raised claw.

A lawyer for Tiffany disputed Costco’s assertion, however.

“If you ask 100 people on the street, ‘What does Tiffany mean?’ they’re not going to say the setting,” lawyer Jeffrey Mitchell said. “They’re going to say the jewelry or the jewelry stores.”

Costco lawyers argued that their Tiffany products do not resemble those from the actual Tiffany. The rings sold at Costo are “unbranded” and instead of the the iconic blue Tiffany boxes, they come in a “plain beige outer gift boxes,” lawyers for Costco argued.

Dabney added a bit of fuel to the Tiffany Costco dispute, calling out Tiffany for using “fighting words to describe what Costco did.” In a lawsuit filed on Valentine’s Day, Tiffany asserted that Costso was selling “counterfeit rings.”

The Tiffany Costco dispute may not see a dramatic courtroom conclusion. Judge Laura Taylor Swain ordered both sides to conduct settlement talks with a magistrate judge.