I was intrigued when I saw the headline, “Costco Owes Tiffany More Than $19 Million, Judge Rules” on my phone yesterday. After all, I didn’t realize that Tiffany & Co. had a lawsuit against Costco. I was curious: why would Costco owe Tiffany & Co. money?
As it turns out, Costco sold “Tiffany” rings, and didn’t make the distinction that the rings did not originate with Tiffany & Co. Costco’s argument was that the term “Tiffany” was generic enough that any copyright/trademark issues were nonexistent.
A court of law, however, disagreed with Costco’s stance. Judge Laura Taylor Swain determined that, “Costco’s upper management, in their testimony at trial and in their actions in the years prior to the trial, displayed at best a cavalier attitude toward Costco’s use of the Tiffany name”. Judge Swain didn’t appreciate how Costco’s stance was blatant disregard for Tiffany’s trademark and branding.
Further, Tiffany & Co. responded after Judge Swain ruled. The company issued a statement, saying, “Judge Swain’s decision validates the strength of the Tiffany trademark and the value of our brand, and most importantly, sends a clear and powerful message to Costco and others who infringe the Tiffany mark”.
I always look for the larger lesson when things like this occur. Namely, how can I benefit from this story?
I’m not a megabrand like Tiffany & Co., but this story just emphasizes the importance of maintaining an excellent public “brand”. Our image is key to our reputation, and it affects the opportunities available to us. Let us all keep our “brands” consistent with values like excellence, quality, and prestige. No matter who we are, let’s be the BEST that we can be, always. Our brand depends on it!
(Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co. – of course!)