Furniture maker, Herman Miller has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against California-based Office Star, which it says is selling chairs with striking similarities to two of its chairs.

The suit, filed recently in the US Western District Court of Michigan, is regarding the company’s Caper and Mirra products.

Herman Miller won its previous suit several months ago, after accusing Office Star and King Hong, a Taiwanese manufacturer, of making and distributing copies of its Eames Aluminum Group chairs since 2010.

In 2016, a jury determined that Office Star had engaged in wilful infringement and dilution in selling King Hong’s chairs, awarding USD8.4 million in damages to Herman Miller.

Now, Herman Miller said Office Star and King Hong — along with additional defendants Jorng Well Industrial, Nova Asia Int’l and Nova Innovations, all Taiwanese companies — are infringing on its patents again.

Herman Miller alleges the defendants are engaged in “large-scale national distribution of the accused infringing chairs,” with the “express knowledge and intent that those chairs would be offered for sale and sold in Michigan (USA).”

Herman Miller said Office Star is a “large, sophisticated” office chair distributor with about USD180 million in revenue per year, which has been “distributing nationally in the United States (and overseas) for decades.”

The company alleges King Hong manufactures the accused infringing copies of the chairs, and Office Star is a major US distributor of the accused chairs. “Office Star sells to a vast network of dealers, distributors and ecommerce retailers, who then re-sell the chairs into the marketplace,” according to the company.

Herman Miller said all accused defendants are aware of Herman Miller’s patents and trade dress rights to the chairs in question, making their actions “wilful.”

The company said its Caper and Mirra products are well-known brands, both having received design awards and selling well in the marketplace for years.

The company also said it sold more than two million Caper units, mostly stacking chairs, since introducing the design in 2000, and Herman Miller has spent more than USD10 million marketing the chair, which has a “distinctive bowler-hat-like backrest”.

It has sold 1.5 million Mirra units since the design was introduced in 2003, and Herman Miller spent more than USD13 million marketing the chair, which it said has a “perforated butterfly backrest design”, which is “highly recognizable and distinctive in the market.”

Herman Miller is seeking recovery of all of its lost profits associated with the number of accused chairs sold. It is also asking to recover all of Office Star and King Hong’s infringing profits, as well as a “reasonable royalty” and for the court to treble the damages and award attorney fees. The company is requesting a jury trial.

From Grand Rapids Business Journal