By Michelle Graff
A ring from Verragio’s Insignia collection with princess and round brilliant-cut diamonds surrounding a setting for a princess-cut center. The three-pronged crown-like symbol under the center stone is called the Verragio Crest, a company trademark that’s currently being defended in a number of lawsuits.
New York--Verragio Ltd. has sent out 30 cease-and-desist letters and filed 10 lawsuits in an effort to crack down on companies it said are copying its diamond engagement ring designs.

The lawsuits and letters have come over the past 18 months after Verragio, tipped off in large part by other jewelry designers and retailers, became aware there was a proliferation of rings deemed as lookalikes in the market.

Filed in federal courts from New York to California, the lawsuits accuse jewelry manufacturers and one retailer of infringing on copyrighted engagement ring designs in Verragio’s six collections and, in some cases, of incorporating the trademarked Verragio Crest (as seen above) into their rings.

Among the companies being sued is Malakan Diamond Co., which is accused of copying rings from the Parisian, Insignia and Venetian collections and using the trademarked Crest in their rings.

In an email to National Jeweler on Thursday, Malakan’s attorney in the case, H. Ty Kharazi, said his client manufactured the pieces in question in the “early 1990s” and pointed specifically to the company’s Michelle collection, made in 1998.

“The design and effects not only are different from Verragio’s, they also pre-date their (copyrights),” he said.

Verragio also is suing Neenah, Wisconsin manufacturer and retailer A & E Jewelers Inc. and AE Jewelers of Appleton LLC, a former Verragio customer that also is mentioned in the Malakan lawsuit as selling allegedly infringing rings made by Malakan.

In that lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Verragio alleges that after it cut ties with the retailer because of lack of payment, A & E Jewelers sold a customer a “slavish copy” of one of its rings from the Parisian collection and then told the customer it was a Verragio ring.

The attorney for A&E Jewelers did not respond to request for comment by deadline.

Verragio also has ongoing lawsuits against D & M-SMJ Inc. d/b/a Skatell’s Manufacturing Jewelers, SK Diamonds and S. Kashi & Sons Inc. All of those cases were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Todd Wengrovsky, the attorney representing S. Kashi & Sons, declined to comment on the pending litigation, citing the “early stage” of the case. (The lawsuit against S. Kashi & Sons was filed in September.)

The attorneys representing Skatell’s Manufacturing Jewelers and SK Diamonds did not respond to an email request for comment by deadline.

A search of federal court records by National Jeweler shows that Verragio’s lawsuits against the following companies have been settled:
--Kim International, filed April 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, settled February 2016;
--Kieu Hanh Jewelry, filed April 2015 in the same court, settled March 2016;
--Jeulia, filed December 2015 in the same court, settled May 2016;
--Master Casting & Cad, filed July 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, settled December 2016; and
--Artisan Jewelers Inc., filed June 2016 in the Eastern District of North Carolina, settled September 2016.

Verragio’s Los Angeles-based attorney, Howard Kroll, said to date, the company has collected more than $500,000 in damages and attorney’s fees between the settled lawsuits and the resolution of 18 of the cease-and-desist letters.

There are 12 cease-and-desist letters outstanding, along with the five lawsuits detailed above.

“They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it’s not,” Kroll said in an interview with National Jeweler. “It’s copyright infringement.”

New York-based Verragio is headed by owner Barry Nisguretsky, better known as Barry Verragio. The company is known for making engagement rings with intricate details and a vintage look.

It started on this streak of legal filings in April 2015.

Commenting on the lawsuits in a company press release, Nisguretsky said: “Our authorized retail partners expect us to protect their investment in Verragio. By protecting our intellectual property, we are maintaining not only the integrity of the brand but also the reputation of those retailers who represent it.”

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