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Tiffany hits back at Swatch over lawsuit

US luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co. denied on Monday that it had violated an agreement with Swatch, and accused the Swiss watchmaker of provoking the breakdown of their partnership.

The denial came hours after Swatch, the world’s biggest watchmaker, said it was ending the two companies’ project to make and sell Tiffany-branded watches and vowed to seek damages against the New York-based jewellery firm for lost business.  

“Tiffany & Co. is confident that its position will be vindicated in the pending arbitral proceedings in relation to this matter and Swatch’s misconduct,” the jewellery firm said.  

Tiffany alleged that Swatch had broken its promises and failed to provide appropriate distribution for Tiffany-branded watches, depriving it of the increase in watch sales and royalty income it had been seeking.  

In its own statement, Swatch said that Tiffany had failed to uphold its side of the partnership, accusing the jeweller of “systematic efforts to block and delay development of the business”.  

Swatch, based in Biel, Switzerland, founded Tiffany Watch in 2008 to develop, produce and distribute Tiffany-branded watches under an agreement with the US jeweler.  

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

The divorce between the two companies marks the end of a partnership that failed to live up to initial hopes.  

Analysts at Bank Vontobel, a Swiss bank, estimated that sales of Tiffany Watch reached 30 million Swiss francs ($34 million) in 2010, making up just 0.5 percent of Swatch’s overall revenues.  

They believed however that the sales potential was 300-400 million Swiss 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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