Published: September 22, 2020
NEW YORK CITY – A September 11 US federal judge’s ruling has set precedent for the upcycling industry.
Vortic Watch Company announced victory in a trademark case filed against the company by Hamilton Watch International, a Swatch Group brand. In a decision made by the US Federal Court on September 11, the judge ruled 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.
Founded at Penn State University in 2013, Vortic Watch Company salvages, restores and transforms antique American pocket watches that are scrapped for the value of their gold or silver cases, turning them into unique wristwatches. The company said in a press release, “Each and every timepiece is one of a kind, and built by hand in the company’s Fort Collins, Colo., workshop.”
“I always knew what we did was not wrong and did not violate trademark law,” said R.T. Custer, the firm’s co-founder in the press release issued after the court ruling. “What we do celebrates and preserves these wonderful antique watches. I’m so thankful the US justice system validated that and protected our American Dream.”
An American Nightmare is more akin to what the Swatch Group, a Swiss conglomerate that oversees the once-American Hamilton brand, is seeing. In 2015, it accused Vortic of trademark infringement and counterfeiting with the case finally culminating this past February 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,” said Vortic’s attorney Robert Lantz. “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.”
For its part, the Swatch Group stated, “We are obviously going to appeal.”
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