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Dunn Lambert, LLC
comprehensive legal services for businesses call 201-957-0874

New Jersey furniture company sued for trademark infringement

Among the many important decisions new business owners must make is what to call their company. Although there are entire college courses devoted to branding, many business owners rely on their own creativity when choosing a name. It may include the name of the city where the business is based, the owner's surname or the type of product. Whatever their inspiration, most business owners want a name that stands out from the competition -- most, but apparently not all.

A furniture company based in New Jersey is being sued for trademark infringement and trademark dilution by another home furnishings retailer. Lexington Home Brands alleges that Hillside-based Sugar Stores Inc. is using a similar trade name for its online operation, Lexington Modern. Although Sugar Stores says on its website that it opened its first online store, LexingtonModern.com, in 2005 -- it's since been changed to LexMod.com -- Lexington Home Brands filed its lawsuit on May 25 of this year.

Among the complaints listed in its lawsuit, Lexington Home Brands argues that none of the furniture Sugar Stores sells on its LexMod website are genuine Lexington brand pieces. And in fact, much of the furniture doesn't resemble what you'll find in Lexington Home Brand's catalogs and showrooms. But that's part of the problem, according to the North Carolina-based company. LexMod's pieces, which are so inspired by famous designers that many of the pieces bear their names (but not their affiliations - another claim in the lawsuit is the unauthorized reproduction of famous furniture designs), will diminish consumer opinion of the original Lexington Brand, the lawsuit claims.

Lexington Home Brands lists seven counts of federal, state or common law trademark infringement and unfair competition. The lawsuit also accuses Sugar Stores of cybersquatting, which is the act of using a domain name with the intent to profit from another company's trademark. It's requesting a jury trial and a judgment forcing Sugar Stores to stop using the Lexington name immediately.

It's unclear why Sugar Stores chose to use "Lexington" as its brand name, and whether it intended to profit off the larger, more established furniture company. But the reasoning will undoubtedly come up in its defense. Whether it will hold up and remain a fixture of the company's online sales remains to be seen.

Source: Furniture Today, "Lexington Home Brands sues online retailer over use of name," Thomas Russell, July 3, 2012

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