Omega is embroiled in a courtroom battle in the US against wholesale-to-retail business Costco over the sale of its Seamaster watches.
Costco is not an authorised Omega retailer but has obtained a shipment of the watch brand’s Seamaster watches through an overseas third party and was selling the timepieces at its stores.
Omega is now trying to prevent the retailer selling the watches by suing it on the grounds that it has indulged in unauthorised importation of copyrighted work into the US. The suit focuses on the copyrighted Omega Globe Design logo that is engraved on the back of the watches that were on sale at Costco.
The first time that this case was taken to court the judge ruled against Omega, on the basis that Omega “misused its copyright of the Omega Globe Design by leveraging its limited monopoly in being able to control the importation of that design to control the importation of its Seamaster watches”.
In reaching this decision, the court noted that Omega did not publicise to the public, distributors or retailers that it had started to engrave the Omega Globe Design on the back of its Seamaster watches, and also that after filing the lawsuit against Costco, Omega advised authorised distributors that “the purpose of this lawsuit was to ‘stem the tide of the grey market’ and ‘unauthorised importation of Omega watches in the US.’”.
Omega is now back in court appealing against the first decision and is arguing that the court ignored the law governing a copyright holder’s exclusive rights in copies of copyright work incorporated into useful articles.
The Swatch-owned watch brand added as part of its argument that where “the copyright is for an artistic element that has been engraved on a useful product, the right to control distribution that is conferred by the copyright also includes the right to prevent others from distributing the copyrighted work that is engraved on that useful product.”