As recent news in Florida indicates, even the makers and sellers of bongs—water pipes—aren’t exempt from falling victim to trademark infringement. South Florida courts have seen an influx of lawsuits in recent months relating to small-business owners being sued in federal court for allegedly selling cheap knockoff bongs resembling the ROOR Glass brand. The ROOR brand, an affiliation of Sream, Inc., is a renown German line of hand-blown glass bongs and hookahs that has garnered a significant following around the world mostly because many customers consider them to be works of art. Thus, a growing number of counterfeit knockoffs are being imported and sold at a fraction of the cost. According to the complaint filed in the UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK, here are some of the non-defaulting Defendants listed in a previous lawsuit:
- Smoke Scene Inc. a/k/a Smoke Zone
- Mega News Inc.,
- City Smoke Shop Inc.
In January 2015, Sream, Inc. hired an investigator who purchased a bong bearing a ROOR trademark from one of the defendants listed in the complaint. Upon further inspection, the pipe was deemed to be counterfeit and sold without authorization from Sream, Inc. The complaint also alleges that the investigator spotted many other pipes in the store with the ROOR Glass logo. The investigator testified that after conducting up to 350 inspections at different retail shops around the New York area, over 100 of the shops were selling counterfeit products. The presiding judge recommended awarding Sream, Inc. damages in the amount of $50,000 per the The Lanham Act. According to the Legal Information Institute, The Lanham Act provides for a national system of trademark registration and protects the owner of a federally registered mark against the use of similar marks. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/lanham_actMany of the South Florida business owners claim that the lawsuits are unjustified based on the fact that it’s too difficult to determine a ROOR brand bong from any other brand on the market. This is what Abu Mansoor, the owner of two South Florida convenience stores being sued, had to say:” We feel that we are being picked on, and it feels very unfair that we were sued without first getting the chance to fix the problem. I’m not a connoisseur of these products, I’m a layman. If they had told us we were doing something wrong, we would have stopped.” But, the ROOR brand claims that there are several elements that they add to their products in an effort to ensure their authenticity including unique signatures and logos. Genuine ROOR Glass bongs can cost anywhere from $150 for smaller models up to $1000 for larger models. Some of the store owners opted for confidential settlements out of court. One established Miami intellectual property attorney who is representing some of the store owners alluded to the fact that these lawsuits are atypical, because the manufacturer of the counterfeit products is the one that is commonly sued by a trademark owner. The Concept Law Group is also representing recipients of these suits and would be happy to talk to you about your options. Call us now at (754) 300-1495.