Franck Muller, Elini Settle Copyright Dispute

A New York federal judge has ordered Elini to stop selling three watch lines, which allegedly copied Franck Muller luxury watches. The July 20 order, by judge George Daniels in Manhattan, incorporated a written agreement between the companies to “settle the controversy between them,” it said. Under that settlement, neither admitted liability, and there wasn’t any award of damages or costs.

Franck Muller USA, New York City, originally sued Elini Designs Corp., Miami, and Elini BVBA, Antwerp, for trademark infringement, copyright infringement, and unfair competition. It alleged Elini copied designs and features of Swiss luxury watchmaker Franck Muller’s Conquistador Chronograph and Cintree Curvex watch lines in Elini’s New Yorker, Jumbo, and Dolce watch lines.

The judge’s order, noting FMUSA’s ownership of trademarks and copyrights of the cited watches in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean, “permanently restrained and enjoined” Elini from “manufacturing, distributing, advertising, promoting, offering to sell or selling” the three Elini lines, and any “imitation” of Muller watches, in those regions.

Franck Muller USA in a July 24 statement praised the “successful and amicable resolution” of the lawsuit. “FMUSA is committed to protecting the integrity of the Franck Muller trademark and its unique design features in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean” said Michael C. Miller, FMUSA’s lead attorney. Since 2006, it has obtained court orders and agreements barring 22 corporate and individual defendants from “engaging in various infringing activities,” he noted.

“We’re happy to have been able to reach an amicable resolution with Franck Muller, USA, Inc.,” said Elini’s attorney, Robert Zarco. “Elini has done nothing wrong, and our settlement with Franck Muller USA, Inc. makes that obvious. Eini was happy to put this legal battle behind it, and return to the modern and cutting-edge designs that have made the brand so popular.”

In a July 27 statement, Elini said that it will “maintain its ‘fashion forward’ approach to watchmaking [but] will no longer manufacture watches resembling the art deco styles that were popular early in the twentieth century.” In what it called, “ an exercise of business judgment,” Elini said it has “decided not to continue to manufacture a limited number of its lines.” It will “continue to sell all of its watch lines through the end of the year, at which time, the sales of certain limited edition watches will cease.”

“We felt that some of our watch lines represented a significant departure from what made the Elini brand so strong in the first place, “said Elini Designs president Nisso Barokas. “So, we have decided to move in a different direction.  We are getting back to who we are.” Elini immediately announced three new “cutting-edge and unique [watch] designs” called The Doves, Genesis and Square World.