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eBay Wins Trademark Suit VS. Tiffany

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision ruling in favor of eBay, finding that the company is not responsible for trademark violations if sellers use its online marketplace to sell fake Tiffany and Co. jewelry and other merchandise as the real thing.

Tiffany first sued eBay in 2004, alleging that eBay engaged in trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertising by allowing “Tiffany” pieces sold on eBay in 2004 and 2005, that were eventually found to be counterfeits. Between 73 percent and 75 percent of the items that sellers listed for sale as genuine Tiffany products were fakes.

The essential point of the Courts ruling is that eBay would not necessarily need to stop advertising goods such as Tiffany products even if it knows that some of them are counterfeit.

eBay applauded the Courts ruling and said the decision confirms that the company is meeting its responsibilities in fighting counterfeiting under trademark law. Its efforts include “buyer protection programs,” set up to reimburse buyers who discovered goods that they purchased were not authentic. It has also worked with Tiffany to post warnings on the site about the authenticity of Tiffany goods.

Tiffany and Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Kowalski said in a statement. “Obviously Tiffany is very disappointed by today’s decision,”As an e-commerce leader, eBay has a responsibility to protect consumers and promote trust in its marketplace. EBay knew that counterfeit merchandise was being sold on its site–and eBay took no effective steps to stop it. EBay deliberately misled consumers for profit, and unfortunately, the court has justified its actions. The consumer is the real loser today.”

Tiffany’s attorneys are performing a full review of the decision and will consider an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stay tuned.

Zales Looks To Restructure.

Bloomberg News reports today that Zale Corp. has hired investment bank Rothschild, for the purpose of evaluating restructuring options.

Zale has posted significant losses during the last seven consecutive quarters and has closed more than 200 locations in the 2009 fiscal year.

Most recently, reports late last week stated Zale Corp. has canceled some orders with suppliers during the vital holiday season.

During November, a month which has typically represented approximately 25 percent of Zale’s total revenues for the second quarter, Zale reported an 18.6 percent drop in comparable store sales.

Stay tuned.

Robbins Bros. Jewelers Goes Chap 11.

California-based jewelry chain Robbins Bros. Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, making it the latest major jewelry retailer to fall prey to the economic crisis.

According to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, the 16-store Azusa, Calif.-based chain, known as an engagement ring destination, will be broken up into two parts and sold.

Barring any higher bids coming in during the Chapter 11 process, Robbins Bros. Corp. will sell the California stores to Robbins Bros. Jewelry–essentially to itself, according to court papers, which also say that the latter can purchase the stores, “free and clear of all liens, claims and encumbrances pursuant to section 363 of the Bankruptcy code.”

Robbins Bros., which expanded rapidly in the past few years, saw its financial condition begin to deteriorate in 2007, becoming progressively worse through 2008, court documents state.

According to its bankruptcy filing, Robbins Bros. felt the pinch of reduced spending by consumers, was riddled with debt from its expansion and had liquidity issues, making it difficult to stock up on merchandise and limiting the chain’s ability to advertise, court documents state.

The chain saw sales decrease about 3 percent last year–from $106.9 million in 2007 to $103.7 million in 2008–while losses more than doubled, increasing from $2.8 million in 2007 to $6.4 million in 2008. The company’s books show assets of $66 million, but liabilities of $77 million, according to court documents.

Among its top unsecured creditors, the chain lists in court documents some notable diamond and jewelry companies, including Leo Schachter Diamonds LLC based in New York (owed $2.71 million), Leo Schachter Ltd. in Ramat Gan, Israel (owed $1.82 million), Moshe and Namdar (USA) Inc. (owed $1.4 million), R and R Grosbard (owed $597,851) and Simon G. Jewelry Inc. (owed $554,455).

Fortunoff Owes 6 Million

Idex Online reports that Fortunoff’s Chapter 11 filing discloses that they owe Diamond and Jewelry vendors 6 million dollars.

Listed in its February 5 filing 1,000-5,000 creditors, assets of $100 – $500 million, and liabilities of $100 – $500 million. An affiliate company included in the filing is Fortunoff Card Company, LLC.

Among the top industry creditors – diamond dealers, jewelry manufacturers and watch makers the debts are more than $3.7 million.

The End of Fortunoff?

NRDC Equity Partners LLC, the owners of the famous Fortunoff Jewelry retail department store are looking to liquidate the stores merchandise and close a glorious chapter in jewelery retail, according to Bloomberg News.

Fortunoff filed Chap. 11 last year and was bought by NRDC. Now with a miserable economy and declining sales, a return to Chap 11 and liquidation is a distinct possibility.

Fortunoff’s flagship store at 57th street and Fifth Avenue in New York City was closed this week at the expiration of its lease.

Helzberg Jewelers Cuts Staff.

Soft retail sales prompted Helzberg Diamonds to eliminate 21 jobs late last week, including 14 filled and seven open positions, company Chairman and CEO Marvin Beasley said Wednesday.

The company now has about 200 employees at its North Kansas City headquarters and about 2,500 employees overall at its more than 260 stores, Beasley said. The company made the headquarters cuts on Thursday.

Beasley said the company has no plans for further cuts.

“We think this is enough, and we think it’s going to be OK,” he said. “We don’t know how deep this recession’s going to be.”

Helzberg Diamonds is a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A).

Beware Of New Scam Against Retail Jewelers and Suppliers

National Jeweler reports that the The Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA) is warning jewelry suppliers about a phone scam in which callers posing as new customers are using bogus money orders to order jewelry merchandise in the $1,500 price range.

In one case, on Jan. 23, someone using the name “Cliff Brewer” ordered six gold clasps from a Los Angeles supplier and sent what appeared to be a money order from Washington Mutual for $1,500 requesting that the merchandise be shipped to his alleged place of business in California, the JSA says. The merchandise was shipped after the money order was deposited. A few days later, the person called again and ordered six more clasps, sent another $1,500 money order, and had the goods shipped.

But both money orders were later returned to the supplier, marked “altered/fictitious.”

In another incident reported from New Mexico, someone using the name “Frank Wright” called a supplier on Feb. 18, and used an address in Inglewood, Calif. The person ordered gold and silver product in two different orders, pre-paying one with a $1,000 money order that appeared to be from Citibank, and the other with a $1,500 money order that appeared to be from Washington Mutual. The latter contained a serial number nearly identical to the bogus one used in the Los Angeles scam.

The goods were sent overnight, and both money orders were returned as fraudulent, the JSA says. There was an additional attempt of this nature on another supplier in the Dallas area, but that individual did not ship the merchandise.

Verify Credit Cards before shipping your merchandise or insist on Bank Wire transfers.

Zales Reports Revenue Loss.

On the heels of Fortunoff’s Chap. 11 filing comes the announcement by Zales that they report a 7.3 percent fall in comparable store sales in the second quarter ended January 31. The U.S. fine jewelry specialty retailer said Thursday that revenues for the second quarter were $827 million compared to $892 million last year.

The company said that while it had a 5.7 percent January comparable store sales increase, approximately 3 percentage points were related to the timing of a Valentine’s Day customer appreciation event.

Year-to-date total revenues decreased 5.5 percent to $1.204 billion, compared to $1.274 billion for the same period last year. Year-to-date comparable store sales decreased 5.1 percent.