Housewares seller Williams-Sonoma filed suit against Amazon back in December, alleging the online retailer improperly used the Williams-Sonoma name and copied furniture designs. Last week, a judge in the Northern District of California found that, despite Amazon’s claims to the contrary, Williams-Sonoma has a plausible trademark claim against Amazon.
Keep reading to catch up on the case so far:
Williams-Sonoma alleges infringing use of its name
The primary complaint from Williams-Sonoma, in this case, is Amazon’s use of the company’s name on pages where Amazon sells Williams-Sonoma products. Individual product pages also linked to a “Williams-Sonoma” page on the Amazon platform.
They argue, and Judge Laporte of the Northern District agreed, that the use of the name might suggest an affiliation between the two companies that does not exist.
Amazon contended that, as a reseller of Williams-Sonoma products, they can use the name on their site – and moved to dismiss the case.
Judge finds Williams-Sonoma’s case is a “close call”
Trademark cases often turn on whether the defendant’s use of the mark is likely to confuse “reasonably prudent” consumers. Williams-Sonoma’s assertion that Amazon was operating an unauthorized Wiliams-Sonoma website failed to meet this standard. However, the court found there was a possibility of consumer confusion.
In the May 3rd order, Judge Laporte wrote that the case was a “close call,” but when all inferences are drawn in favor of Williams-Sonoma, it is possible consumers would believe Amazon is not “merely reselling Williams-Sonoma products.” Rather, Amazon seems to be “cultivating the incorrect impression that these sales on amazon.com are authorized by Williams-Sonoma.”
This ruling is a short-term win for Williams-Sonoma, but they still must make a convincing argument for consumer confusion at trial. As this case moves forward, online sellers like Amazon may need to re-evaluate the way they advertise products being re-sold on their platforms.