Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse and HSN Sued for Selling Allegedly Phony German Knives
UPDATED: Wüsthof knives clarifies that they are not the makers of the allegedly fake Legasse knives bearing the Solingen trademark.
The knives are out.
Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse and Home Shopping Network were sued Tuesday by a German trade association that claims they are trying to pass off a shoddy line of China-made kitchen knives as having been manufactured in Solingen, Germany.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Florida by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Wuppertal-Solingen-Rumscheid, owners of the Solingen name, synonymous with "the finest quality of Germany cutlery," according to the court documents.
The suit claims the defendants are knowingly selling counterfeit knives to consumers on TV and online under the "Emeril-Wüsthof" brand name. ("The only knives that make Emeril say, 'Bam!'" the brochure states.)
[Update: Wüsthof tells The Hollywood Reporter that they are no longer working with Legasse and are not manufacturers of the allegedly fake knives:
"Wüsthof is not connected to or named in a current lawsuit initiated by the Solingen Chamber of Congress in Solingen, Germany against Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse and Home Shopping Network."
"Wüsthof is not in any way associated with incorrectly marketing cutlery with the Solingen Decree. Wüsthof ended its affiliation with Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart Omni Living in early 2010. When Wüsthof's partnership with Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart was active, the co-branded Wüsthof and Emeril Lagasse cutlery was manufactured in Solingen, Germany. Cutlery that is currently branded as Emeril is not manufactured or distributed by Wüsthof."]
Citing "willing infringement" on the Solingen trademark, the suit alleges HSN "advertises, distributes, promotes, offers for sale and sells various knife products bearing counterfeits of the Chamber's federally registered mark." The knives "are marked with the signature trademark 'Emerils,' and 'Solingen, Germany' on one side of the blade, and on the other side they are marked 'China,'" according to the complaint.
Stewart is named in the suit because Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia owns Lagasse's product line, pitched and endorsed by the boisterous Cajun chef himself. Stewart is identified as being the "primary controlling force" behind the parent company, who was "responsible for the licensing, advertising, promotion and sales" of the knives.
As for the impact of the knives' poor quality, the suit points toward a product review of a 5-inch Santouku Knife on HSN's website. "I'm disappointed in the video when Emeril stated that the Santouku knife was made in Germany," the disgruntled consumer writes. "That is terrible when a top chef lies to you on TV." Other shoppers complained that the knives "were rusting and breaking in half."
The chamber is seeking an injunction preventing the defendants from selling the knives, plus damages of up to $2 million for every instance of trademark infringement.
Calls to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Lagasse and HSN seeking comment have not been returned.