Naval Battle. From left, Emeco’s famous Navy Chair and a Restoration Hardware ripoff.
Fresh from a scandal that saw its rugged spokesmodel and unofficial mascot Gary Friedman ousted from his post as CEO, Restoration Hardware is back in hot water for ripping off Emeco’s Navy Chair, the aluminum classic designed by the Hanover, Pennsylvania-based company in 1944 for the U.S. Navy and in production ever since. The cut-rate clone (pictured at right), which appears throughout the company’s phonebook-sized fall catalog, is called—wait for it—the “Naval Chair.” The lack of nomenclative creativity may make things easier for Emeco, which is suing Restoration Hardware and Friedman for infringement of Emeco’s trade dress and trademark rights for its Navy Chair. “The irreparable harm caused by Restoration Hardware, an established company, to Emeco’s reputation and significant goodwill is massive, incomparable to that caused by a typical, small-time counterfeiter,” noted Emeco in a statement issued late yesterday. CEO Gregg Buchbinder compared the knockoff to “stealing the Nike Swoosh or the Mercedes Benz logo, and then exploiting our brand and reputation to produce an inferior product.”
The lawsuit comes just days after Restoration Hardware filed for a $150 million IPO. Emeco seized upon a pre-IPO SEC filing as fodder for its cause, highlighting a section in which the company states that, “at our core we are not designers, rather we are curators and composers of inspired design and experiences.” By “[e]xternally discover[ing] and curat[ing]” others’ designs, as opposed to “[i]nternally design[ing] and develop[ing]” its own products, Restoration Hardware can cut the product development process from “12-18 months lead time” to “3-9 months lead time” and “reduce product costs.” In contrast, Emeco pegs its own product cycle of designing, prototyping, research and development, engineering, and tooling at approximately 2 to 4 years. While Restoration Hardware has yet to issue an official response on the matter, it has hastily renamed its Naval Chair “Aluminum Standard Side Chair” and sliced the price from $169 to $129. The authentic version, which comes with a lifetime guarantee from Emeco, sells for $455.