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Wayfair Partly Moves to Dismiss William Sonoma’s Patent Infringement and False Advertising Suit

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On Tuesday, Boston, Massachusetts-based online furniture seller Wayfair Inc. moved to dismiss part of a lawsuit claiming that, through its group of brands, it deliberately infringes the intellectual property of competitor William Sonoma Inc. (WSI) and unlawfully imitates the WSI’s West Elm brand.

WSI’s December-filed complaint contends that Wayfair copied a number of design patents WSI holds for side tables, chairs, beds, lamps, and other furniture. The complaint states nine counts of patent infringement as well as a Lanham Act claim for false advertising concerning “Wayfair’s factual statements regarding the origin of its designs or that its products are ‘only at Wayfair,’ ‘exclusive’ to Wayfair or ‘looks you’ll only find at Wayfair.’” WSI calls the foregoing website and Instagram statements “false or misleading representations.”

This week’s motion challenges the Lanham Act claim only, stating in a footnote that “Wayfair looks forward to challenging Plaintiff’s patents and rebutting the claims at the appropriate time.” The filing asserts that Wayfair’s statements are true. Secondarily, it asserts that words like “only” and “exclusively” constitute non-actionable puffery and cites case law for support.

In addition, Wayfair attacks WSI’s standing. The defendant says that WSI cannot advance California law claims because they are available only to consumers with first-hand reliance on the advertising, not competitors claiming consumers were somehow misled. 

The dismissal motion also takes aim at WSI’s alleged proof of false advertising. It says that WSI relies on comments from third-party bloggers to prove that Wayfair knocked off its designs. Wayfair argues that those statements are not its own, let alone its own advertising, and contradict the complaint. “Indeed, one of the very articles upon which Plaintiff so heavily relies makes clear that this is not a case about ‘knockoffs,’” the motion says.

Wayfair concludes that WSI levels implausible allegations to impugn its reputation, noting that Wayfair lawfully competes with WSI by curating “its own attractive collections, at a more appealing price.”

Wayfair is represented by Cooley LLP and WSI by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

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