Oliver Thomas in Birmingham Wins Lawsuit Over Diamond Quilted Handbags

Oliver Thomas, which makes handbags and accessories, won a lawsuit filed by MZ Wallace Inc. and the right to continue to use its quilted diamond pattern. // Photograph Courtesy of Oliver Thomas

Oliver Thomas in Birmingham, which in 2017 launched a line of handbags and accessories, has announced that it won a complete victory in a lawsuit filed last year by MZ Wallace Inc. in New York over the right to use a diamond quilted pattern on its handbags.

Following a full trial, Judge Denise Cote of the United States District Court in Manhattan found that MZ Wallace “has no protectable trade dress rights” — specifically, MZ Wallace has no right to monopolize the use of diamond quilting on handbags and other accessories.

The court also held specifically that MZ Wallace has no trade dress rights in its nylon quilted product design and said that its claim was “very weak.” Cote also criticized MZ Wallace’s “unsavory” business practices, such as encouraging its employees and family members to post false accusations on Oliver Thomas’s social media and threatening Oliver Thomas employees at a trade show.

“Quilting isn’t new nor is it owned by anyone,” says Sue Fuller, founder and CEO of Oliver Thomas. “We set out to create a fun and very functional, affordable line of machine washable, vegan certified bags and accessories for how people live today. We have met a need in the marketplace without compromising our high standards and values.”

Oliver Thomas bags feature the patent-pending “Secret Stash” compartments equipped with RFID-blocking technology as well as a variety of pockets and features including slip pockets, key clips, wipe able interiors, hidden zip pockets, interior credit card holders, and removable cross body straps.

“We were delighted that the court recognized that Oliver Thomas has every right to sell its functional and stylish products in the marketplace,” says David H. Bernstein, a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, which represented Oliver Thomas at trial. “No company has the right to monopolize commonly used, functional features like diamond quilted patterns on handbags, which have been used by fashion companies on handbags for decades.

“We are also pleased the court concluded that Oliver Thomas’ distinctive bags are causing no confusion in the marketplace.” Assisting Bernstein at trial were his associates” Christopher S. Ford, Olena V. Ripnick-O’Farrell, and Kathryn C. Saba.

The line can be purchased in specialty retail stores and online. Oliver Thomas has offices in Birmingham, Massachusetts, and China. At the time this story was written, it was not clear if MZ Wallace Inc. would appeal the decision.

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