BLOGS: Furniture Law Blog

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Friday, May 27, 2011, 10:27 PM

Furniture Manufacturers: Advertising Your Intellectual Property?

Perhaps furniture companies are becoming more innovative or perhaps just because spring is in the air, but in any event several manufacturers are touting intellectual property with respect to their furniture.  Bedding producer Eclipse International announced it received a patent on its "Zoned Quilt Technology" for mattresses.  According to Eclipse, the technology eliminates body impressions and provides additional support in the center-third of the mattress.  Moving from bedding to recliners, Barcalounger announced recently that it is seeking patent protection on one chair in its new Surround Lounge collection.  Barcalounger says the chair is similar to a business class airline seat (is this a selling point?) and that the chair received rave reviews at the April High Point Market.  Interestingly, Barcalounger does not indicate whether it is seeking utility and/or design patents on the chair.

So, what's the point of all this?  Whenever you receive a patent or apply for a patent it may be worth tooting your own horn.  For example, announcing that you applied for a patent on a piece that you believe may be knocked off is may be a way saying "hey - back off!"  Similarly, announcing that you received a patent may be a good marketing tool.  In either event, you get additional mileage out the rights bestowed by the patents themselves.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 9:18 AM

Hollander Not Comfortable With La-Z-Boy Over "Live Life Comfortably" Slogan

On May 23, 2011, Boca Raton-based Hollander Home Fashions, LLC sued La-Z-Boy, Inc. in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida for trademark infringement (Civil Action No. 9:11-cv-80605).  The suit also asks the court to instruct the United States Patent and Trademark Office to deny La-Z-Boy's pending trademark application for "LIVE LIFE COMFORTABLY."

In the complaint, Hollander alleges that it uses the trademark LIVE COMFORTABLY in conjunction with its sale of bedding including pillows, comforters, blankets, and mattress pads.  Hollander has two federal registrations, one for LIVE COMFORTABLY and the other for LA VIE DOUILLETTE (the French translation of "live comfortably") for bedding products.  Hollander alleges La-Z-Boy is using the phrase LIVE LIFE COMFORTABLY in conjunction with sofas, chairs, recliners, loveseats, sectionals, lift chairs, and sleepers. In addition, Hollander alleges that La-Z-Boy uses LIVE LIFE COMFORTABLY in connection with sleepers on which bedding such as pillows, blankets and sheets are located.  Hollander further alleges that La-Z-Boy markets and/or licenses bedding products and uses or has authorized use of LIVE LIFE COMFORTABLY in conjunction with those products.  Hollander asserts claims of federal trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and common law unfair competition.

Hollander's allegations raises the question of whether the presence of incidental goods (i.e., bedding) in the sale of one's primary products (i.e., furniture) can give rise to trademark infringement.   That may be a stretch if La-Z-Boy is not selling the bedding in the marketing material for its furniture.  Conversely, the sale of bedding in conjunction with LIVE LIFE COMFORTABLY fits the traditional mold for a trademark infringement action which will require a determination of whether La-Z-Boy's use is likely to cause consumer confusion.  Hollander has gone out on a limb with the dilution claim as it will have to prove its mark is famous, and not just famous within a niche, e.g., the bedding industry.
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