June 18, 2012 11:05am PT by Eriq Gardner
'Men in Black 3' Timepiece Prompts Swatch Lawsuit
The Swatch Group is suing another watchmaker for allegedly creating a knockoff of a timepiece that appears in Men in Black 3 and then touting the allegedly infringing watch as being seen in the film.
The allegations of trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising were lodged against Stuhrling Original LLC in New York federal court last week.
Recently, Warner Bros. survived a lawsuit brought by Louis Vuitton over a knockoff handbag in The Hangover Part II. Imagine if the French designer had sued the Chinese manufacturer of the handbag instead of the studio, and you get an idea of the gist of this latest case.
The Swatch Group owns a line of watches known as the Hamilton, a brand that dates back to 1892. Swatch says these Hamilton watches are a longtime Hollywood favorite, seen in episodes of The Twilight Zone, used by Elvis Presley in the 1961 film Blue Hawaii, featured in a 2010 episode of Mad Men and worn by Will Smith in the three Men in Black films.
Swatch is particularly proud of the success of Men in Black 3, pointing to strong box-office numbers, and says it has invested millions of dollars in promoting a watch with a shield-shaped case and bezel, with other features purportedly constituting its protected trade dress.
Swatch says Stuhrling had access to its watch and intentionally copied the design. The defendant then is said to have sold these watches online at Amazon and on the ShopNBC television network. Swatch says the defendant is attempting to pass the watches off in a manner calculated to deceive its customers and quotes the defendant's president of operations boasting on TV, "If memory serves, there is another motion picture release now where this is once again being touted."
Swatch demands damages from the alleged infringement, profits and attorney fees.
This isn't the only pending case of a watchmaker being sued for promoting an appearance in a major motion picture. Sandra Bullock is suing one company for advertising a watch as the same one she wore in her Oscar-winning role in 2009's The Blind Side. In this instance, however, the watch manufactured by the defendant is supposedly not the same one in the film.