Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 24, 2013

Sabika, Inc., attorney: Local jewelry sellers given chance to address claims

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Two local jewelry sellers are protesting a civil suit filed against them by Sabika, Inc., while another is cooperating with the company.

Sabika, Inc., filed a civil complaint against Michelle Oxley and Sheraine Gunnoe and their Princeton-based company Goshen Sparkling Jewelry, LLC, as well as against Erin Brown of Rock and her company Frost Yourself, Inc., alleging all three women and their companies committed copyright infringement, trademark infringement,  initial interest confusion and dilution as prohibited by federal law. The civil action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in Bluefield last week.

Maxim H. Waldbaum, an attorney representing Sabika, Inc., in the lawsuit, said both Frost Yourself and Goshen Sparkling Jewelry have been given the opportunity to address the issue with Sabika before they are brought to court in the civil suit.

“At the time the complaint was filed cease and desist letters were sent to them, and they had the option to respond by calling us within seven days,” Waldbaum said. “We gave them the option to see if this could be settled out of court. One of the parties took me up on the offer and one did not. We are currently talking to one of the parties, but I cannot specify which. We are negotiating with the party that took us up on our offer, and we feel this issue will be taken care of soon.”

According to Waldbaum, these cases are driven more by local Sabika sales consultants than by the company itself.

“We have consultants who run businesses in different localities,” Waldbaum said. “They became aware they were being copied. They were some of the first to report this, and so their reports came to the very top of the pile. We have to evaluate where these people are doing the most damage to our consultants and where our consultants are the loudest.”

However, Oxley and Gunnoe said claims they have infringed on Sabika copyrights are false in a statement posted on the web site for Goshen Sparkling Jewelry.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers who have supported our business over the past 10 months,” the statement reads.

“Because of you, Goshen Sparkling Jewelry has become a success and in doing so, we have become a target of a multi-million dollar business who wants to put small businesses out of operation for their own financial gain. Goshen Sparking Jewelry has been accused of copyright and trademark infringement by Sabika. We have not and will not infringe on trademarks or copyrights. No parts of our jewelry has been used that is a trademark or copyright.”

Furthermore, the pair said Sabika consultants have “tried to entrap” them by requesting jewelry designs similar to Sabika products.

“There have been individuals who have tried to entrap us by coming to our shows and placing special orders trying to get us to use their protected copyright and trademark,” the statement said. “If this has happened, it was unintentional and unknowingly done because we did not know the items had been copyrighted or trademarked. This is a very low and scheming attempt to bring legal action against us and shut our business down. We absolutely refuse to be threatened or intimidated by a large company and their attorneys. We have been advised by legal counsel not to stop making this beautiful jewelry but rather to keep our business moving forward. We will continue with all scheduled shows and our products can be purchased as always.”

Waldbaum said the suits against Frost Yourself and Goshen Sparkling Jewelry are the first of many lawsuits the company is pursuing to protect their copyrighted and trademarked products.

“We do anticipate future actions to be taken,” he said. “Quite a few people are seeing our success and want to copy it. These are rights we have developed over the past 12 years. If you are a successful business, you don’t want someone copying you because you have worked for your success. There comes a time with a company where you have success and the financial backing to protect that success.”

Waldbaum said Sabika consultants are impacted the most from sales of what the company refers to as “imitation jewelry.”

“We have a lot of loyal consultants who work hard,” Waldbaum said.

“For many, this is their second job. They are staying up late to host these parties after working a full day and are going out on the weekends with their children to sell these items. They are trying to bring income to their families. This isn’t a large company beating up on little companies. This is hardworking, local people who are seeing their business and profits being taken away by imitators.”

In the complaint, Sabika alleges several pieces of jewelry as well as promotional materials used by Brown, Oxley and Gunnoe violate jewelry and promotional materials Sabika has trademarked and copyrighted, in particular the Sabika Wine and Dine Choker, the Sabika heart symbol, copying jewelry from catalogs and the Sabika sales model.

Sabika, Inc., is a Pittsburgh, Pa.,-based business in operation since 2001 and was founded by Karin and Konrad Mayr. The company specializes in handmade Austrian crystal jewelry.

Sabika has developed multiple jewelry lines, copyrighted at least 35 jewelry products, and presently as more than 600 consultants working in 47 states, primarily in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

— Contact Kate Coil at´┐Ż