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Venice store Obsolete takes on Restoration Hardware over ethics of vintage reproductions

April 30, 2011 |  6:00 am

Obsolete-tank

Court filings have been flying and design circles are buzzing over the lawsuit filed by the Venice antiques and curiosities shop Obsolete and the countersuit filed by Restoration Hardware. In court documents, Obsolete owner Ray Azoulay, above, laid out a scenario in which Restoration Hardware bought some rare imported lamps from Azoulay's store, manufactured reproductions and began offering them in a spring catalog.

Restoration Hardware responded with a cross-complaint for defamation and trade libel, among other legal claims. "Reproducing antique industrial designs is neither a new practice nor an unethical one," a Restoration Hardware executive said in a letter to Azoulay, also part of the court filings. The executive added: "Acting as a reseller of antique items does not grant you intellectual property rights in the items you sell."

While the legal battle continues, Azoulay is pressing his argument about ethics. The questions The Times'  article  asks:

If an independent merchant stakes his reputation to his ability to find rare pieces of design around the world, and he invests significant time and money to do, is it fair for a larger company to cherry-pick the best discoveries, manufacture lookalike reproductions and undercut the little guy on price? Is that an ethical line breached or merely a savvy business practice?

You can read David A. Keeps' full report on the case. We also have copies of Azoulay's lawsuit and Restoration Hardware countersuit, supplied by representatives for Obsolete. They include photographic comparisons such as the one below, showing lighting sold at Obsolete and reproductions sold at Restoration Hardware. We also have the stipulated agreement, provided by representatives for Restoration Hardware, under which Azoulay said he would alter the Restoration Reproduces site that he created to publicize his case. Apologies in advance -- because of a technical glitch, we don't have the court documents in chronological order; start with Obsolete's claim on Page 40, then jump back to the counter claim and stipulated agreement.

-- Craig Nakano

Obsolete-comparison

Top photo: Obsolete owner Ray Azoulay. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photos: A lamp acquired by Obsolete, left, and a reproduction from Restoration Hardware.

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