Linen Source Strikes First in Trademark Dispute

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In an apparent attempt to take pre-emptive action against an expected lawsuit, cataloger Linen Source asked a court to resolve a copyright dispute with Williams-Sonoma regarding the Pottery Barn catalog, according to documents obtained by DM News.

According to papers dated March 7 filed with the U.S. District Court in Tampa, FL, Linen Source sued Williams-Sonoma over a letter it received Jan. 2. In the letter, Williams-Sonoma claimed that Linen Source had copied its Pottery Barn catalogs in design and product line, Linen Source said in its lawsuit.

The letter demanded Linen Source change the appearance and product line in its catalogs, according to the lawsuit. Williams-Sonoma also claimed to own "international design registrations" for certain products, specifically a Mica lamp design marketed by Linen Source, and demanded that Linen Source reveal the manufacturer, distributor and supplier of the lamp, Linen Source said.

On Jan. 22, Linen Source's lawyers requested more information from Williams-Sonoma, but in return received only a reiteration of the charges in the first letter, the lawsuit claimed. Linen Source then sued, claiming it had "reasonable apprehension" that Williams-Sonoma would sue "for these baseless allegations," according to the lawsuit.

An attorney for Linen Source listed in the papers did not immediately return phone calls yesterday. A spokeswoman for Williams-Sonoma also did not respond to requests for comment.

In the lawsuit, Linen Source said that Williams-Sonoma's complaint was based on page layouts common to the "soft goods" or linen industry. The company also noted that catalog production software in common use in the industry contains page layout templates available to all.

Both companies buy goods from the same sources and follow seasonal trends in determining product lines, so similarities are to be expected, Linen Source said. In addition, because of the months of preparation required for catalogs, it would be impossible for Linen Source to copy a Pottery Barn catalog for one season and prepare and distribute its own catalog in the same season, according to the lawsuit.

Linen Source asked the court to issue a ruling on Williams-Sonoma's copyright infringement claims "to prevent needless additional litigation."

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