Markets taking battle to court

The largest new development in downtown Las Vegas is suffering an identity crisis.

A retail furniture and tchotchke chain sued in federal court seeking to strip the name from the $2 billion World Market Center, a massive industry-only furniture trading market and centerpiece for the revival of downtown Las Vegas.

The lawsuit by Cost Plus Management Services of Oakland, Calif., says the Las Vegas center infringes on the name of the Cost Plus World Market chain of 286 stores in 35 states.

In a complaint filed Feb. 7 in U.S. District Court in Nevada, Cost Plus seeks an injunction to prevent World Market Center from using the name or globe logo that adorns the 10-story facade of the center’s first building at 495 S. Grand Central Parkway. Cost Plus also wants World Market Center to pay up to $1 million in damages “per counterfeit mark,” according to court documents.

The lawsuit is an unusual show of ill will aimed at the World Market Center, which opened with great fanfare in 2005 and enjoyed positive public momentum while attempting to lure business away from an established market in High Point, N.C.

“Clearly the lawsuit will cause the World Market Center indigestion,” said Ivan Saul Cutler, a furniture industry observer and blogger. “They have an exalted view of themselves. That’s why they named it World Market Center.”

The World Market Center is now a hub for furniture trading in the western United States. It competes with the High Point market, a historic furniture trading post that dates back to 1889. High Point boasts 12 million square feet in 188 buildings. The Las Vegas center so far includes 2.9 million square feet of space, much of it reserved for permanent storage, and holds two annual markets for professional traders.

There are plans to expand the center to 12 million square feet by 2013, which would make Las Vegas a global epicenter for the $120 billion furniture industry.

Even as it defends its own right to the marks, the World Market Center filed its own lawsuit in state court to stop a Las Vegas furniture seller from using the phrase World Market and a globe logo.

The state lawsuit accuses Dreamscape, 1212-1222 S. Rainbow Blvd., of infringing on the World Market Center mark by describing itself as a “World Market Liquidator.”

The three parties entangled in both lawsuits all declined to elaborate beyond court filings.

“We are actively engaged in efforts toward finding resolution of the matter; and therefore, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this time,” said Dana Pretner Andrew, director of marketing and public relations for the World Market Center via e-mail.

Marcy Bergman, a San Francisco-based attorney for Cost Plus, said she would seek permission from the company to discuss the lawsuit but did not call back to elaborate.

Las Vegas attorney Greg Buhyoff represents Dreamscape and declined to discuss the lawsuit.

According to court documents, Cost Plus officials believe the World Market Center’s “intense and pervasive marketing,” of the name and logo infringes on as many as 23 federally registered marks.

Cost Plus says it registered the marks as early as 1993. In May 2006, Cost Plus said it sent the World Market Center a cease-and-desist letter but received no substantive response. Cost Plus sent another letter in November after finding out World Market Center was going beyond its industry-only customer base by using the disputed name in connection with retail furniture sales.

World Market Center uses similar language against Dreamscape. In court documents World Market Center lawyers say Dreamscape’s use of the phrase “World Market Liquidator” in a Dec. 1 print ad leads the public to believe the entities have an exclusive arrangement.

“Dreamscape has never sought or obtained permission to use the World Market Center name and has never entered into any sort of business relationship related to retail sales of furniture sold at (World Market Center) events, or by (World Market Center) tenants,” the Dec. 13 complaint said.

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