Emeco settles dispute
over Navy Chair copy


Emeco settles dispute over Navy Chair - genuine Navy Chair

News: American brand Emeco has reached a settlement in its legal dispute with Restoration Hardware after claiming the fellow US company's Naval Chair (below) is a rip-off of its classic Navy Chair (above).

Emeco released a short statement saying that "as part of that settlement, Restoration Hardware has agreed to permanently cease selling the chairs that Emeco accused of infringement, and its existing inventory of such chairs will be recycled." The total amount of the settlement remains undisclosed.

Emeco settles dispute over Navy Chair copy

Emeco Industries Inc. filed for a preliminary injunction in a San Francisco district court on 11 October 2012, seeking to block Restoration Hardware from manufacturing, marketing, advertising, and selling its "cheap knockoffs" of Emeco’s iconic Navy Chair, also known as the 1006 chair.

An original Navy Chair by Emeco retails at around £300, but the Restoration Hardware version was on sale for just £50.

“We’re not going to stand by while Restoration Hardware steals our brand and trades on our reputation by selling an inferior product,” said Emeco CEO Gregg Buchbinder at the time. “It’s important for American companies to stand up for craftsmanship, quality and jobs. We not only want to stop Restoration Hardware but prevent others from doing similar damage to our economy.”

The Hanover, Pennsylvania-based company first created the Navy Chair with its distinctive curved back and three vertical slats in 1944 as a sea and sailor-proof piece of furniture for the US Navy. Its light weight and toughness led to its widespread use in institutions like police stations, prisons, schools and hospitals across America and the design has been in production ever since.

The seats are made by hand from recycled aluminium and are guaranteed for life, which the company estimates at 150 years.

Emeco has more recently experimented with other recycled materials, including the plastic 111 chair made of coke bottles and the Broom chair made of debris from factory floors by Philippe Starck.

Copying remains a hot topic in design, including the recent news that an entire building designed by Zaha Hadid for Beijing has been pirated by a developer in Chongqing, with the two projects racing to be completed first. Last year Qatar was accused of "counterfeiting 1000 street lamps".

Apple recently had to pay up for using a Swiss rail operator's trademarked station clock design and has now filed a patent for the layout of its Apple stores.

Last year UK copyright law was changed to give artistic manufactured goods the same term of protection as literature or art, following a campaign started by Elle Decoration UK editor Michelle Ogundehin, who condemned replicas of classic furniture after the British prime minister's wife revealed that she'd purchased a reproduction of the Castiglioni brothers' iconic Arco floor lamp.

Meanwhile industrial designer Tom Dixon told us that "legal systems don't really defend designers at all" and designers should turn from mass production oversees to localised manufacture and digital production to overcome the threat to their businesses.

See all our stories about Emeco chairs »
See all our stories about copying in design »

  • Simple and modern.

  • David

    Can’t wait to see what kind of settlement they’ll come to with Fritz Hansen over the Egg Chair.

  • thm1993

    To be fair, it is practically identical in every way.

  • Alexander Fleming

    As usual, we only see only one part of the problem: the rights of the big companies being trespassed by producers selling “copies”. How about the fact that these companies, like Vitra or Fritz Hansen or, by the way, Emeco, bought the copyright some 80 years ago and now, on behalf of this, they sell some classics that were intended by their designers to be mass produced and mass enjoyed for a price never affordable for those they were intended to reach?

    I doubt Le Corbusier or Mies ever intended their armchairs to be sold at five times the the minimum wage. They were left wing, as all of the avant garde designers were in the thirties). And I doubt the Navy utilitarian chair was meant to cost 850 Euros (as it reaches the European stores).

    The difference from 850 to 50 Euros is only Emeco’s shareholders’ profit, not Emeco’s “commitment to quality”. Thank God Penicillin was invented before some of these guys ever thought about buying the rights from its inventor or one dose would cost a lifetime’s savings.

    • brononamous

      Too true.

  • Jack

    A 1944 design – doesn't copyright cease after 50 years anyway?