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I think we’re alone now: Swatch cuts ties with Tiffany

The world's biggest watchmaker Swatch said on Monday that it has ended its partnership with Tiffany & Co as it accused the US luxury jeweller of blocking the development of the business.

I think we're alone now: Swatch cuts ties with Tiffany
Blake Patterson

The group added that it would file for damages against the US firm, “in compensation for the loss of planned long-term future business.”  

“Today Swatch Group terminated its cooperation contracts with Tiffany & Co,” said the Biel-based group in a statement.  

“This action became necessary following Tiffany & Cos systematic efforts to block and delay development of the business,” it added.  

Swatch founded Tiffany Watch Co. Ltd in 2008 to develop, produce and distribute Tiffany-branded watches under a partnership agreement with the US jeweller.  

With the termination of the agreement, Tiffany Watch will begin winding down its business over two years.  

“We do not understand the behaviour of Tiffany,” Swatch chief executive Nick Hayek told AFP.  

He said Swatch attempted on several occasions to raise its concerns with Tiffany, but to no avail.  

Hayek revealed that he had even met the head of Tiffany “several times, but with the result that nothing changed.”  

Citing an example of how the US group failed to cooperate in the development of the watch business, Hayek said Tiffany opened four sales points in China but did not include watches in these new boutiques.  

“We have been warning them since 2009, but now we can no longer take responsibility for such detrimental behaviour. We are turning the page,” said Hayek.  

“It’s a shame, we were convinced that it was a fabulous opportunity and that there is potential,” he said.  

Bank Vontobel analysts estimated that sales of Tiffany Watch reached 30 million francs ($34 million) in 2010, making up just 0.5 percent of the group’s overall revenues.  

They believed however that the sales potential was over ten times that — at between 300 to 400 million francs.

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LAW

Swiss watchmaker Swatch wins latest trademark battle with Apple

A top Swiss court on Thursday handed the watchmaker Swatch victory in a trademark dispute with US technology giant Apple – the latest in a series of legal disputes between the two firms.

Swiss watchmaker Swatch wins latest trademark battle with Apple
Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek with the Zero One wristwatch in 2014. File photo: AFP

In the current case, Apple had alleged the Swiss company’s ‘Tick different’ slogan was too similar to the US company’s ‘Think different’ slogan of the 1990s.

Apple originally filed an objection with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, but that organisation turned down the complaint.

Read also: How luxury watchmakers are gearing up for Brexit

The US company then took the case to the St-Gallen based Federal Administrative Court.

To have a chance of winning its case against Swatch, Apple had to prove that the famous slogan – the related TV commercial won an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial in 1998 – had more than 50 percent recognition in Switzerland.

However, the Federal Administrative Court ruled Apple had not provided sufficient evidence that this was the case and found in Swatch’s favour.

The evidence for awareness of the slogan in Switzerland consisted of just several articles on Apple in Swiss broadsheet NZZ.

This dispute was just the latest in a series of legal confrontations between the two companies.

In 2007, Swatch, which is headed up by charismatic businessman Nick Hayek, trademarked the term ‘iSwatch’ before Apple was able to register the term ‘iWatch. 

The Swiss watchmaker also trademarked the expression ‘One more thing’, which was made famous by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Apple has had other legal problems in Switzerland. In 2012, it reportedly paid 20 million Swiss francs (€17.8 million) to Swiss Federal Railways to avoid going to court over its use of the design of the Swiss railway clock in its i06 operating system.

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