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State's Fiesta china maker sues over knockoffs

NEWELL, W.Va. -- West Virginia's Homer Laughlin China Co. is suing two companies for selling what it claims are cheap Chinese imitations of its popular and collectible Fiesta dinnerware to an unsuspecting public.The Weirton Daily Times says the lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in western Pennsylvania, where the products are being sold.It says Hanna's Candle Co. of Fayetteville, Ark., and The Bazaar Inc. of River Grove, Ill., are selling Chinese knockoffs of the famous American brand under the name Carnaval.Homer Laughlin alleges violations of a federal law that prohibits trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertising.Neither Hanna's Candle nor The Bazaar immediately returned telephone messages Tuesday.Homer Laughlin is the nation's largest domestic manufacturer of dinnerware, and attorney Charles Gibbons says deliberately copying other companies' products is illegal and creates confusion in the marketplace. The lawsuit says it's also causing the Newell-based china company irreparable financial harm.Homer Laughlin is demanding monetary damages and the destruction of all Carnaval products that have not been sold, as well as the recall of advertising, catalogs and other marketing materials, including those on The Bazaar's website.It also wants a judge to order the companies to contact consumers to say they don't represent Homer Laughlin.
The lawsuit claims the Carnaval products trade upon the popularity of Homer Laughlin's Fiestaware, which is popular with collectors nationwide. The brand was introduced at a Pittsburgh trade show in 1936 and reintroduced in 1986."Fiesta dinnerware has an iconic status and claims thousands of collectors, dealers, students and historians from around the world,'' the lawsuit says. "It is also the most collected dinnerware in the United States.''Carnaval's Art Deco designs and bold colors are "strikingly similar'' in appearance to Fiesta, the lawsuit says, although the Chinese products "are inferior copies that do not come close to meeting the standards of Fiesta dinnerware.''Even the cardboard box "is a clear knockoff of the Fiesta dinnerware packaging,'' the lawsuit argues.The defendants "are engaging in a systematic effort to deceive the public by unfairly competing with Homer Laughlin and its efforts to sell Fiesta dinnerware,'' the lawsuit says. "Defendants' copycat activities -- both with respect to the products themselves and their packaging -- are willful and intentional.''  
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