Five years ago, the Swatch Group launched a lawsuit against Vortic Watches of Colorado for trademark infringement. The Swiss conglomerate – owner of the Hamilton brand – took exception to Vortic advertising their Hamilton pocket watch-to-wrist-watch conversions as such. This despite the fact that Hamilton no longer makes pocket watches. The Swatch lawsuit went to federal court. The verdict has been rendered . . .
The court ruled on the Swatch lawsuit entirely in Vortic’s favor. The sword of Damocles hanging over Vortic’s head – if they’d lost they’d have been out of business – is gone.
The implications extend far beyond wristwatches. The case centered on “up-cycling”: restoring/improving vintage products and selling them with the original brand name attached. So a restored Porsche (e.g., a Singer vehicle) can now be sold as a restored Porsche using the Porsche name.
Before reading the the press release from Vortic below announcing their victory, know this: the mainstream watch press – including HoDinkee – wouldn’t touch this story with a ten-foot pole, cowed into submission by their dependence on Swatch for money and access. TTAW was all over it.
FORT COLLINS, Colo., Sept. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ – Vortic Watches announces victory in a trademark case filed against the company by Hamilton Watch International, a Swatch Group brand. In a decision made by the U.S. Federal Court on September 11, 2020, the judge ruled [on the Swatch lawsuit] in favor of Vortic on all counts.
After a five-year battle, Federal Judge Alison Nathan determined Vortic has the right to salvage and restore antique pocket watches and turn them into wristwatches, including those that bear the Hamilton trademark.
“I always knew what we did was not wrong and did not violate trademark law. What we do celebrates and preserves these wonderful antique watches,” says R.T. Custer, co-founder of Vortic. “I’m so thankful the U.S. justice system validated that and protected our American Dream.”
The Swatch Group, a Swiss conglomerate which oversees the once-American Hamilton brand, accused Vortic of trademark infringement and counterfeiting in 2015. The case finally culminated in February 2020 with a bench trial in the Southern District of New York.
“We’re happy with the precedent that’s been set in this historic case,” says Vortic’s attorney, Robert Lantz (above). “We demonstrated that the business model of upcycling antique pocket watches into wristwatches is fair and legal. Moreover, the Court’s ruling protects thousands of American small businesses that preserve history, and enhance or find new uses for antique products.”
Vortic successfully presented its efforts to avoid any consumer confusion in advertisements by describing its watches as works of art – “a museum on the wrist.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of both my team and the Justice System,” says Custer. “We won one for the little guys today. This was truly a David vs. Goliath case.”
To learn more about Vortic Watch Company, please visit www.vorticwatches.com.
About Vortic Watch Company
Founded at Penn State University in 2013, Vortic Watch Company preserves American history. Most antique American pocket watches today are scrapped for the value of their gold or silver cases. Vortic instead salvages, restores and transforms those pieces of antiquity into unique wristwatches. Each and every timepiece is one-of-a-kind, and built by hand in the company’s Fort Collins, Colorado workshop.
SOURCE Vortic Watch Company
Glad to see this from a Vortic and Trademark abuse perspective. Trademark is supposed to protect consumers, that’s it. Patents and copyrights protect companies that do innovative work. Nobody paying over a grand for a Vortic thought it was a Hamilton. For one thing if it was a modern non-chronograph Hamilton no smart buyer would be paying over a grand.
This is great news! Congrats to Vortic and their team. Keep up the great work!
Does Vortic explain their logo somewhere? Are the three horizontal lines something more than a hamburger menu icon?
Hey Rambo, were ya hungry when you posted this comment?
The ‘hamburger’ is ‘stripes’; more American than apple pie those stars and stripes are. In this case their logo is star and stripes.
How do I know? Only learnt this 5 minutes ago as I was watching their pocket-watch to wristwatch conversions. Great concept. I am off to locate my Grandpapa’s pocket-watch from somewhere amongst the progeny.
Having solved that mystery I will attempt to figure out bezel screws, alignments (and misses) and the relationship to torque. I am as interested as you in understanding Racer88.
Before you convert the pocket watch consider using it as a pocket watch.
Also, Vortic did a great job of converting pocket watches but they’re out of that business now. They buy movements on the open market.
Aha, thanks for this update. Sure, I can enjoy pocketing a pocket-watch when I find it amongst the cousins.
Thank you Mr. River. It sure looked like the ubiquitous hamburger button to me.
Did they explain if the X was based on the NYHC logo or something like that?
Watch this space. The answer is long but I am halfway there. It is a code spanning several centuries and when I have unlocked it I will report back.
Ok seriously. The silence from nearly all watch media is astounding. Except for the Scottish Watch guys. They’re all over this, just like TTAW. Check out their long interview with Custer in this week’s podcast, it’s fantastic.
This is an incredible development. Think it will have ramifications for farmers who try to fix their own John Deeres? Maybe that’s just different enough to not matter, I don’t know.
Anyway, amazing stuff. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.
If you have problems with the law and you don’t know what to do in such cases, it seems to me that you need to contact a lawyer, and if you don’t know who you need, then contact Paul Mankin, they have a professional team of lawyers who are ready to solve your problems.
My lawyer is T. Axel Jones but thank you for calling and sharing.