"Tiffany" Rings at Costco?

08/17/2017 | Business Litigation

On Valentine’s Day 2013 Tiffany & Co. learned another “Co,” Costco, was selling rings labeled “Tiffany,” but the rings, of course, were not Tiffany & Co. rings.  Tiffany & Co. sued Costco for advertising and selling as many as 2,500 rings labeled as “Tiffany.”  Tiffany & Co alleged Costco misled its customers, and at least some of the customers thought they were buying an actual Tiffany & Co. ring.

The case was not just that simple, though.  Not only was there a “Tiffany” sign by the rings, but Costco staff was also describing the rings to customers as “Tiffany.”  Some customers who bought a ring later realized it was not in fact a Tiffany & Co. ring, so they complained to Costco.  According to reports, Costco was less than concerned and did nothing to remedy the situation. 

In 2015 the case went to trial and a jury awarded $8.25 million in punitive damages against Costco.  The judge also awarded Tiffany & Co. $11.1 million in damages – triple the $3.7 million Costco made from selling the “Tiffany” rings. 

Costco plans to appeal the verdict and judge’s ruling and states “tiffany” is a common phrase known to describe a style of setting for a ring.  They believe it is common to use this description when selling rings and that people understand the jewelry isn’t actually from Tiffany & Co.  Costco also pointed out the rings were not marked with Tiffany & Co.’s name or sold in the iconic blue boxes or bags.  The judge’s ruling now requires Costco to use words such as “set,” “style,” or “setting” along with Tiffany if describing a ring style.