Hamilton v. Vortic Heads to Trial

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Hamilton v. Vortic Heads to Trial

Post by koimaster » February 18th 2020, 10:53pm

Hamilton v. Vortic Heads to Trial: Where We Are and How We Got Here

This update is meant to give an overview of the facts and law in Hamilton International Ltd. v. Vortic LLC such that readers can form their own opinions as the case heads to trial.

It’s been a long two-plus years for Vortic Watches since Hamilton filed a trademark infringement and counterfeiting lawsuit against it back in July of 2017 (see the original complaint here). But, the suit finally comes to a head this week as a bench (i.e. non-jury trial) is set to begin in the Southern District of New York on February 19 (Hamilton International Ltd. v. Vortic LLC, 17-CV-5575).

Case background and complaint

In 2017, Hamilton, an historically American watch brand now owned by Swiss conglomerate Swatch Group, filed suit against Vortic and founder RT Custer alleging trademark infringement and counterfeiting, as well as levying claims of false designation and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, the federal statute governing trademarks and unfair competition.

Vortic Watches is an engineering and manufacturing company based in Fort Collins, Colo. The company uses 3D printing to create new, custom-built wristwatch cases, then drops mechanical movements and dials it sources from old American-made pocket watches to create bespoke wristwatches. In addition to manufacturing the case, Vortic also gets the original mechanical movement in working order, which at least sometimes means using movement parts from multiple antique watches.

In building these watches, Vortic maintains and restores the original dials and movements, meaning the branding of the original timepieces is kept. Visiting Vortic’s website, you’ll see watches with dials from historic American watch brands like Illinois, Waltham, and others. Before Hamilton filed its complaint, Vortic’s offerings also included Vortic wristwatches with dials and movements bearing the Hamilton name.

In addition to bringing claims regarding Vortic’s watches, Hamilton also asserts that Vortic’s advertising materials — including its website — improperly infringe and suggest an affiliation with Hamilton. Hamilton alleges that the advertisements and watches are “likely to cause confusion”, in the market, thus infringing on Hamilton’s trademarks, and additionally that the use of the Hamilton name will wrongly cause consumers to believe Vortic’s watches are endorsed by or associated with Hamilton.

https://rescapement.substack.com/p/hami ... IcoJJek-m4


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Post by anonymous-10 » February 19th 2020, 6:39am

"to create bespoke wristwatches.

This is reason enough to drill these assholes.
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Re: Hamilton v. Vortic Heads to Trial

Post by bbattle » February 19th 2020, 4:53pm

If Vortic is being upfront and honest about what they are doing and what is going on, Hamilton will have a tough time showing that buyers are confused into thinking they are buying continuation Hamiltons from Hamilton and not some restoration shop.

From the article:
First, the court analyzed whether Vortic made adequate disclosure as to the origin of the products in the advertisements Hamilton took issue with. Taking the Vortic website first, the court points out that the branding Vortic had given the watch, “The Lancaster” and “American Artisan Series”, appeared in large bold letters. Then, in smaller print, the ad explains that the movement, dial and hands came from an antique pocket watch “made by Hamilton Watch Company,” going on to explain how Vortic builds its watches. The court ruled that a reasonable jury could conclude that this advertisement constituted “full disclosure” as to the fact that Vortic is producing watches from old Hamilton components, and thus absolve Vortic of the infringement claim. The court applied the same reasoning and analysis to a similar print advertisement, as well as to a Vortic tweet, sending all three claims to trial.

On the other hand, if they are claiming that these refurbed Hamiltons, Illinois, etc. are their watches, and they have not secured rights to the names of these old brands, then they are stone-cold busted. It'll come down to how many original Hamilton parts are combined with new parts. Is one vintage hand enough to brand that watch a refurb? I have no idea.

There's a bicycle website called Bikesdirect.com and they've bought up a bunch of formerly prestigious brand names that have since gone under. They market their bikes as though they have something in common with the racing bikes of the 60's and 70's they now share a name with. Super shady but they did buy the names.

Vortic can't claim a Hamilton they refurbed is a Vortic; they can only claim that they refurbed a Hamilton. And if they insert some fine print somewhere on their advertising/marketing pages, they are probably covered.

At least, the judge felt the case had merit enough to go to trial instead of summary judgement.

In my opinion, the best Hamilton can hope for is that Vortic has to display more prominently the fact that they are in fact, selling refurbed watches.
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