Alphaville Design, Inc., of Fremont, California is preparing for trial against Knoll Inc. (NYSE:KNL) in San Francisco Federal Court in a lawsuit that will determine whether certain historic 1920's furniture designs, created by the famous designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, are in the public domain. Knoll and Alphaville Design have been locked in a legal battle since 2007, in which Knoll is claiming exclusive trademark rights in what are sometimes known as the "Barcelona" and "Brno" names and designs. The Court recently cleared the way for a jury trial when it denied motions from both sides to resolve the case short of trial.
In its ruling, the Court noted, "Specifically, the trademark rights will not be valid if the designs have gone into the public domain at any time. . . ."
Alphaville Design's President, David W.F. Lee, stated, "We are delighted at the chance to present our case to a jury. We have no doubt that the designs long ago passed into the public domain. It is simply unfair for a large company like Knoll to stifle smaller, less costly producers by claiming trademark rights in classic public domain designs. We feel that historical designs should be accessible to all. If we win, the people win. If we lose, that might be the day when affordable design dies."
Knoll, Inc., a designer and manufacturer of office furniture products and textiles, is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Pennsylvania, and a publicly traded company with sales over $1 billion in 2008. Alphaville Design, Inc., a Delaware corporation headquartered in California, is a small closely-held corporation. Alphaville Design is a designer and wholesaler of furniture for residential, hospitality and contract markets.