Let me tell you a little something about Germans: they take their jobs seriously. When students there are about 16 years old, they get sorted into different educational tracks -- those expected to go on to college go to one type of high school called gymnasium, while others are moved into apprenticeships and then trades.
For instance, if you want to be a baker, you don't just whip up some bread and waddle down to the local greenmarket and hope someone buys it. No -- you have to train for like eleventy billion years and pass some tests and then maybe you can be an assistant baker. (Yes, I am exaggerating, but my sister has lived there her whole life and she explained this all to me in great detail once.)
This system might seem like a giant pain in the hoo-ha to us, but there the result is an incredibly high level of craftsmanship in every industry. The town where my sister is from is known for its puzzles, for instance, and those too, are taken very, very seriously. The Germans are a serious people.
So, when a collective of German knife makers in a town called Solingen saw that the Home Shopping Network (HSN) was hawking knives that were stamped "Solingen" on one side but "China" on the other side, they were all "Oh hell, no!" (Or maybe, "Scheisse!")
Now they are suing for $24 million.
You see, according to information from the plaintiffs (technically known as "Chamber of Industry and Commerce Wuppertal - Solingen - Remscheid"), "cutlery and blades of all kinds have been manufactured in Solingen for
eight centuries." Cutlery made in Solingen must meet certain high standards as designated by German law under the "Solingen decree." (I am not making this up.) High-end knife brands Henckels and Wüsthof are two companies that meet these standards and whose cutlery is marked accordingly.
But HSN was allegedly hawking the counterfeit goods as having come from Solingen -- making the city look like it produced crappy product.(No offense to the Chinese, it's just that we've never heard of any special knife-making legislation going on there.)
So the Solingen peeps are now going after "Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc., Emeril Lagasse,
his companies, Home Shopping Network, and SED International Holdings,
Inc., for willful federal trademark infringement and counterfeiting,
false designation of origin and common law unfair competition."
There are 12 different "accused products" at issue here. Plaintiffs are going after Emeril because he has personally hawked these knives on TV, and they have his Emeril brand name imprinted on them. They are going after Martha Stewart because her company bought the Emeril brand in 2008.
The complaint noted that "Lagasse wrote a foreword in a book on knives
that has a copyright of 2008 in which he admits to visiting the knife
museum in Solingen, Germany, and stating that "[i]t was on that visit
that I realized knives had an incredible history worth studying and
getting involved in."
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So, questions remain: Were these knives made in Germany or China? Is the steel, at least, German? Who is to blame for the confusion? Was it an innocent mistake, or a sinister plan to make profits, profits, profits? Who's writing forewards for Emeril? Will tourists stop flocking to Solingen, the "city of blades"? Can you trust the origins of anything hawked on HSN? When will Emeril's show about Florida cooking come out, and will he be baking any flamingo nuggets?