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Wednesday, January 30, 2019, 9:31 AM

Williams-Sonoma Brings Lawsuit Against Amazon

If you’ve been following Williams-Sonoma’s lawsuit against Amazon alleging, among other things, that the online retailer copied design patent and trademark rights then you’ll want to hear what our own Jack Hicks has to say about it. Hicks, a veteran intellectual property attorney who has long served the home furnishings industry, recently shared his thoughts on the federal lawsuit in an interview with Furniture, Lighting & Decor.
The case was filed in December 2018.  Amazon is expected to file its response by February 5, 2019.  A copy of the complaint and exhibits may be found here.
Jack Hicks has more than 30 years of experience guiding home furnishing and design companies through all stages of the intellectual property process. He has written and prosecuted patents, trademarks, and copyrights on literally hundreds of furniture-related designs. Hicks’ proximity to High Point, N.C., the capital of the U.S. furniture industry, helps him better serve U.S. and international manufacturers and distributors for the home furnishings industry. Hicks is a frequent author and speaker on furniture- and design-related intellectual property issues.

Monday, September 19, 2016, 2:32 PM

No Time to Relax for Inflatable Lounger Companies

Guest Post by David R. Crowe

With their newly issued design patent in hand, Fatboy the Original B.V. and Fatboy USA have quickly acted to defend their place on the sand. 
(Photo Source:, accessed 9/13/16)

The Lamzac® lounger uses an “air scooping” action to fill a pair of separate chambers, which when filled, creates an easily inflated lounger that can be transported and set up anywhere without the need for a pump.  The act of rolling up the open end of the lounger appears to take up the slack to give the lounger its desired level of firmness.

Prior to launching the Lamzac® lounger for sale in February 2015, Fatboy, sought a European Community Design registration in January 2015, which was used to provide a priority claim to a U.S. design patent application filed in July 2015.  On August 30, 2016 the USPTO granted to Fatboy U.S. Patent D764,823, protecting the ornamental design of the Lamzac® lounger.  Images from the ‘823 design patent are shown below.  In a search of documents assigned to Fatboy, no utility patents or published utility patent applications for the method of making or inflating this product were found as of this post.


When the ‘823 Patent was granted, Fatboy was ready.  The very next day, a suit was filed against EMRG, LLC, the alleged manufacturer or distributor of the PouchCouchTM. (  The case alleges infringement of the ‘823 Patent and was filed in the Northern District of Texas, the home district of Fatboy USA.  The case is currently awaiting an answer from EMRG.  The case is Fatboy the Original B.V. and Fatboy USA, LLC v. EMRG, LLC NDTX 3:16-cv-02520-K. 

The PouchCouchTM

(Photo Source: Complaint filed by Fatboy in NDTX 3:16-cv-02520-K)

            The PouchCouchTM is apparently not be the only product allegedly similar to the Lamzac® lounger.  Only two days after asserting infringement against the PouchCouchTM, Fatboy was at it again, this time filing suit against Value Max Products, LLC.  Value Max is alleged to have harmed Fatboy with the “Aero Lounger” product shown in the advertisement below.  In this second suit, not only does Fatboy allege infringement of the ‘823 Patent, but also raises issues of unfair competition and copyright infringement based on allegations that the marketing materials below where taken from Fatboy as well.  This case, also in the Northern District of Texas, is Fatboy the Original B.V. and Fatboy USA, LLC v. Value Max Products, LLC NDTX 3:16-cv-02544-M.

(Photo Source: Complaint filed by Fatboy in NDTX 3:16-cv-02544-M)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016, 10:30 PM

EPA Issues Final Rule on Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products

Guest post by Whitney Passmore and Michael Sullivan 

On Wednesday, July 27, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released a prepublication version of its final rule on Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products. The authority for the rule comes from the Toxic Substance Control Act (“TSCA”). The EPA’s rule relies heavily on the formaldehyde emissions rules set by the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) as part of California’s Phase 2 formaldehyde emissions standards, and the EPA’s emissions standards are identical to those set by CARB.

Who will be affected by the new rule?

This rule will affect manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers of products containing composite wood, which is defined as hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard.

What is required under the new rule?

The EPA’s final rule sets out detailed record-keeping, labeling, and testing requirements for composite wood and products containing composite wood. Below are three major areas of concern that manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers of finished goods containing composite wood should be aware of as they prepare to comply with the national formaldehyde emissions standards.

Record-keeping and labeling: One year after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register, manufacturers of finished goods containing composite wood (called “fabricators” under the CARB and EPA rules), importers, distributors, and retailers will have to comply with new record keeping and labeling requirements.

With regard to record keeping, manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers will be required to “take reasonable precautions” to ensure the products they sell comply with the emissions standards. As part of taking “reasonable precautions,” a company must obtain documentation, such as bills of lading or invoices, from suppliers of composite wood products that includes a written statement that the products are either compliant with formaldehyde emissions standards or were produced prior to the rule taking effect. Companies must keep this documentation for three years – a year longer than required by CARB.

Importers face an additional record keeping requirement. If requested to do so by the EPA, importers must provide records identifying either (1) the composite wood panel producer and the date the composite wood products were produced or (2) the supplier of the composite wood products (if different than the producer), component parts, or finished goods and the date of purchase. Importers will have to provide this information to the EPA within 30 days of a request, and documentation must be kept for three years.

Finally, manufacturers of finished goods containing composite wood products must label each finished good or box or bundle containing finished goods with the manufacturer’s name, the date the good was produced, and a statement that the finished goods are compliant with the TSCA. If a manufacturer chooses to label the box or bundle of goods, importers, distributors, and retailers of those goods must keep the label from the box or bundle and keep track of which products are identified with the label. Importers, distributors, and retailers must make the label information available to potential customers if requested.

Importer Certification: Two years after the final rule is published in the Federal Register, importers will be required to certify that imported composite wood or products containing composite wood comply with the TSCA.

Testing requirements: Beginning seven years after the publication of the final rule in the Federal Register, manufacturers of laminated products will have to comply with third-party testing and certification requirements that apply to manufacturers of hardwood plywood panels. The EPA defines “laminated product” to include only those products with a wood or woody grass veneer, so the testing requirements will not apply to synthetic laminates such as plastic or vinyl. The EPA’s decision to require third party testing and certification by manufacturers of laminated products is a significant departure from the CARB rules.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways companies can lessen or avoid the burdens of a costly testing program. First, the EPA exempts two types of laminated products from the definition of “hardwood plywood”: (1) Laminated products made by attaching a wood or woody grass veneer with a phenol-formaldehyde resin to a compliant platform; and (2) laminated products made by attaching a wood or woody grass veneer with a resin formulated with no-added formaldehyde (“NAF”) as part of the resin cross-linking structure to a compliant platform. Accordingly, a manufacturer using NAF or phenol-formaldehyde resins will not be subject to the testing and certification requirements. Instead, these manufacturers must keep records showing their products are made with the appropriate resins and a compliant platform. Notably, the EPA has left the door open for interested parties to petition for additional exemptions.

Second, manufacturers of laminated products can apply for an exemption from the testing and certification requirements based on use of ultra low-emitting formaldehyde (“ULEF”) resins. To qualify for a ULEF exemption from the testing and certification requirements, a company must undergo a limited (6 months) testing program to show its product complies with emissions limits. Additional limited testing is required to renew the exemption every two years. 

Contact Information

Womble Carlyle's Furniture Industry Team and Environmental, Energy & Toxic Tort Litigation Team counsels clients on regulatory matters including compliance and supply chain management.  If you have any questions about the EPA's rule on Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products, please contact Whitney Passmore at 336.721.3532 or WPassmore@wcsr.comMichael Sullivan at 404.879.2438 or, or any member of the aforementioned teams.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016, 10:14 PM

EPA Issues Final Rule to Protect the Public from Exposure to Formaldehyde

Today the EPA issued its final rule related to formaldehyde emissions standards.  This rule will affect manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers of furniture manufactured with composite woods (hardwood plywood made with a veneer or composite core, medium-density fiberboard, and/or particleboard).  A copy of the final rule can be found at:   

Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 1:27 PM

Womble Carlyle Attorneys Working with Furniture Industry on Improving Safety Standards

HIGH POINT, N.C.—The furniture industry is examining the dangers to children posed by “tip-overs”—and Womble Carlyle attorneys Michael Sullivan and Whitney Passmore are part of the conversation to improve safety standards.

The ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee is proposing two updates to the Standard Safety Specification for Clothing Storage Units. These proposed changes come in response to a Consumer Product Safety Commissioner’s comments that the existing introduction to the standard includes a loophole that could create ambiguity. From a legal liability standpoint, furniture manufacturers must be aware of potential tip-over lawsuits or possible product recalls.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015, 4:46 PM

Jake Wharton Interviewed by Bentley Tolk on the Legal Marketing Launch Podcasts

I was the latest guest on Legal Marketing Launch, a podcast hosted by attorney and legal marketing guru Bentley Tolk. We discussed leveraging a legal blog in a narrow niche (furniture law). I thank Bentley for the opportunity and the good discussion.

Saturday, August 1, 2015, 6:49 AM

Is "New Vintage" On the Way Out?

The furniture business is constantly evolving.  New trends come and go.  Some stick around for a while, and some burn bright for what constitutes a fleeting second in the industry.  The New Times reports that "New Vintage" is on the decline and a new lighter aesthetic is taking its place. Find the article here.

Remember that with good design comes the need for design protection.  With cleaner, more minimalist lines, modern furniture design lends itself to design patent protection in certain cases.  With a modest upfront expense, and relatively short pending periods, design patents are an ideal form of protection for some designs or particular aspects of those designs.

Design patents continue to issue weekly on furniture designs.  Here is a just a sampling of design patents on more modern furniture designs:

U.S. Des. Pat. No. 610844

U.S. Des. Pat. No. 493983

U.S. Des. Pat. No. 617117

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