Can I Get a Witness?

BB Becker, Denver, engraves inspirational messages on sterling silver bracelets, charms, and pendants. So does San Francisco jewelry artist Jeanine Payer. Payer believed Becker’s pieces too closely resembled her designs, so she sued him for trade dress infringement. Last October, after hearing expert testimony from a jewelry historian, a New York City jury found Becker not guilty. Typically, a graduate gemologist or a jewelry appraiser—not a historian—is called on for expert-witness testimony in jewelry disputes. That’s because they’ve usually sold or appraised the piece in question. But when a jewelry-design controversy escalates to litigation, a jewelry historian makes a better expert witness than a graduate gemologist or an appraiser. That’s the view of Joyce Jonas, a well-known jewelry historian, who was the expert witness in Becker’s successful defense. Becker expl

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