Industry / Legal

Tiffany, Costco Finally End Eight-Year Legal Battle


Tiffany & Co. and Costco have settled their eight-year legal fight, sparked when Costco used the word Tiffany to describe some of its rings.

The settlement came weeks after Tiffany, which has been owned by LVMH since January, changed its legal counsel in the case. Details of the settlement were not disclosed, but Costco’s lawyer told CNBC, which first reported the story, that it was resolved “amicably.” The dismissal was done “with prejudice,” which means the case cannot be refiled.

The dispute dates back to November 2012, when a Huntington Beach, Calif., Costco was found to be selling “Tiffany” diamond engagement rings that didn’t come from the retailer. Costco said the word referred to the setting, but the rings were sold with the word Tiffany without any modifierss.

After Tiffany found other examples, Costco removed all Tiffany-marked products from its shelves, and wrote to all the customers who bought the rings, offering them refunds. Costco CEO Craig Jelinek even admitted fault in a leaked email.

Yet when the two sides couldn’t come to terms, Tiffany filed suit against Costco in 2013, charging it with selling “counterfeit” Tiffany items and setting in a motion a seemingly endless legal battle. At one point, Costco tried to get Tiffany setting ruled a generic term, causing a year-long battle over that question. In one particularly bizarre moment, a Costco lawyer insinuated that one of its customers was engaging in money laundering.

Tiffany won the initial round, when Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled on its behalf on summary judgement in 2015. A jury later awarded the company a hefty damages of $21 million. Costco appealed, and in August 2020, an appeals court vacated that decision, saying the case needed to be decided by a jury. Tiffany said it had “no qualms about trying this case again.”

But, perhaps, given that the dispute centers on a nine-year-old mistake that has long been corrected, the retailer now has a new perspective—or perhaps just a new law firm and owner.

Tiffany did not return a request for comment by the time of publication.

(Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.)

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By: Rob Bates

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