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Swatch sues Target, claims it copied watch designs

Swatch watches are displayed in front of a shop at the central station in Zurich February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
Swatch watches are displayed in front of a shop at the central station in Zurich February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Target Corp has been sued by Swatch Group SA, which accused the second-largest U.S. discount retailer of illegally selling watches that copy its own.

In a lawsuit made public on Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Swatch, which is known for its plastic namesake watches, accused Target of infringing its designs for "zebra" and "multi-color" watches.

Swatch said the quality of Target's watches is "inferior" to its own, and that their continued sale is likely to confuse shoppers and damage the Swiss company's sales.

It also said it advised Target of the alleged infringement, but that the Minneapolis-based company continued its sales.

"By adopting the Zebra Watch trade dress and the Multi-Color Watch trade dress, defendants are unfairly competing" with Swatch, the complaint said.

Swatch seeks to stop Target from selling the alleged copies, recoup profit from prior sales and be awarded money damages.

Target spokesman Evan Lapiska declined to discuss the lawsuit, but said the retailer's policy is "to respect the intellectual property rights of others and we expect the same from our vendors and partners."

Swatch's lawsuit is dated March 7.

Retailers of luxury or well-known products often sue to stop sales of alleged imitations they believe cost them revenue and customer goodwill.

Tiffany & Co sued Costco Wholesale Corp in February 2013 to halt the largest U.S. warehouse club chain's sales of what it called counterfeit diamond engagement rings that bore the Tiffany name.

Swatch is based in Bienne, Switzerland. It also owns higher-end brands such as Breguet, Longines, Omega and Harry Winston.

The case is Swatch AG v. Target Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-01580.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andre Grenon and Cynthia Osterman)

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