After eight years of litigation between Chris Aire’s company, Solid 21 Inc., and Hublot, a subsidiary of LVMH, regarding Solid 21’s RED GOLD® trademark in the United States, and less than one month from a highly anticipated trial, the parties announced they have resolved the disputes between them in a joint press release. Additionally, Hublot stated that it “recognizes that Solid 21 has a registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the use the phrase ‘Red Gold’ as a trademark in connection with watches and jewelry and that such registration has become incontestable under Section 15 of the Lanham Act.” Neither side would oﬀer additional comment.
According to court records, Nigerian-born Chris Aire, world-renowned jewelry and watch-maker, began using the mark RED GOLD® in association with the sales of or watches and jewelry in 1989. In 2002, he registered the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The success of the brand demonstrated Aire’s marketing ingenuity in coining an identifier that signifies masculinity. His RED GOLD® collection of jewelry and watches became highly successful and exponentially expanded his business, while instigating massive media buzz that helped propel sales to new heights. It also broadened his celebrity base, which today includes such high-profile and eminently loyal followers as Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Liam Helmsworth, Shaggy, Dr. Dre, Ellen DeGeneres and many more.
“You couldn’t give rose gold away before we started branding it,” the Nigerian-born designer told Bloomberg.
A slew of other watch manufacturers were sued by Aire in 2010 over their unauthorized use of the RED GOLD® mark in association with sales of watches, including the Richemont Group, Swatch, and Movado. Most of those suits were tolled pending the resolution of the Hublot case. Following the settlement announcement, Aire has indicated that “everything is on the table” and he will be vigorously pursuing any infringers of the RED GOLD® mark.
It bears mentioning that Aire built his company Solid 21, Inc. from the ground up, with what he describes as “equal amounts of heart and talent.” Aire moved to California from Nigeria while still a teen to continue his education and discover his destiny, miles away from the family oil haulage business his father assumed he would rejoin.
He seeded the company with his own hard-earned investment of just $5,000 he’d saved from his salary as a jewelry apprentice, after brief forays into acting and music. Aire’s first big break was the result of a fortuitous encounter with NBA superstar Gary Payton, who helped secure a substantial order that literally allowed Aire to pay for his return ticket to California after the meeting.
Another major break came in 2004, when Aire made history as the first jeweler to stage an all jewelry and watches runway show of his collection in New York City during fashion week, showcasing diamonds as fashion. Supermodel Naomi Campbell headlined the event wearing one of Aire’s over-the-top creations from his RED GOLD® collection that helped earn him the nickname “King of Bling”: a diamond halter worth 10 million USD.
But there’s more to Aire than just “bling.” With a focus on sourcing and selling conflict-free gems, many from mines in which he is personally invested, and a goal of eliminating child labor in the mining industry in his home continent, Aire says that he built his business on his “own conscience.” He also is involved in numerous charitable organizations both in the U.S. and abroad.
“We are a very socially conscious company,” he says. And more as a grateful aside than a pat on the back for a smart marketing maneuver, he continues, “A lot of our high-profile clients have taken notice. And you know what happens when they take notice? The rest of the world does, too.”
Many are inspired by Aire’s hard work and commitment to protecting his trademark and intellectual property.
Although he would not comment on the settlement, Aire said: “I am very grateful to everyone who has supported us over the past eight years, but all the glory must to Yahweh, Our Elohim, in whom all things are possible”.
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