Jan. 18--Red hot jewelry firm Alex and Ani is targeting two North Attleboro companies for allegedly knocking off its wildly popular bracelets as school booster baubles.
The Cranston, R.I., company has filed a patent infringement lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston against Northeast Jewelers and NORI Fundraising Concepts to stop them from selling the alleged copycat versions of its signature wire bangles with charms.
Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery "when you have so much hard work that goes into the creation of our products," Alex and Ani CEO Giovanni Feroce said. "In our case, the No. 1 reason why we have such great support is (customers) understand the authenticity behind everything we do."
Alex and Ani's "eco-friendly, positive energy" jewelry is made in Rhode Island with recycled local materials. Customers often wear stacks of its bangles on their wrists.
Northeast Jewelers, an authorized Alex and Ani retail partner until last August, since has been selling the alleged knockoffs at its store, on Facebook and through school fundraisers.
Manager Chris Wynn defended the sales, saying they've raised a lot of money for area schools. More than 60 have signed on to conduct fundraisers by selling school-themed "original NORI fundraising" bracelets, according to Northeast Jewelers' Facebook page, which lists high schools in North Attleboro, Taunton, Worcester and Weymouth among them.
"On closer inspection, our bracelets aren't the same as Alex and Ani," Wynn said. "They're a different metal, and they have a different design. It's (like) one tire company suing another tire company for having a tire on the market."
But Feroce said Wynn is "using a charity to try and get away with what they're doing."
"That's a sad statement," he said. "He knows darn well that we have our own Charity by Design division that has given away millions of dollars in a very programmatic way."
Alex and Ani has targeted a string of retailers for piggybacking on its success, which propelled the 10-year-old company's revenue to $225 million in 2013, from $4.5 million in 2010. It's ranked 94th on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing U.S. companies.
So Alex and Ani aggressively protects its lucrative bangle design, stopping companies such as Loft, Forever 21 and Old Navy from selling copycats, its lawsuit states.