Reuters has reported that Stanley Black & Decker has sued Sears, citing “breach of contract and trademark infringement” over the new Sears Craftsman Ultimate Collection tools.
If you need a refresher, the full details of Stanley Black & Decker and Sears’ arrangement over the Craftsman brand was detailed in our news story when the acquisition was announced two years ago. Basically, the acquisition agreement allows Sears to develop, market, and sell their own Craftsman tools under a licensing agreement.
I’ve looked at the Sears Craftsman Ultimate Collection, and readers have even requested reviews and more information about it. One of the sets has a special marketing image, which suggests that it was a better value for what it contained than Craftsman tool sets sold elsewhere.
In the image, Sears says:
We are so confident that if you find a Craftsman Mechanic’s Tool Set with all these features at a lower price, we will match the price and give you a $100 Gift Card!
It seemed odd to me for Sears to convey a message like this, that their sets are a better value than others’ Craftsman tool sets, with Stanley Black & Decker’s Craftsman tools sold at Lowes being the implied competition.
While continuing to research the context around the new Sears Craftsman Ultimate Collection tools, I published a post about the current Sears and Stanley Black & Decker Craftsman hand tool warranties.
The Craftsman Ultimate Collection advertisements don’t seem too problematic, they simply state that the Sears Craftsman Ultimate Collection consists of “handpicked tools by mechanics, for mechanics.”
The new Craftsman Ultimate Collection tools don’t stand out to me, except for the ratchet handles which look strangely shaped, as if a forging step was skipped. I know that’s off-topic to mention, this is likely the one and only post where we’ll ever talk about the Craftsman Ultimate Collection tools.
If you search for “craftsman tools” on Google, there is a Sears Craftsman Tools advertisement at the top, with the landing page containing some strong marketing. Here is where I can see what helped motivated Stanley Black & Decker’s legal complaint.
At the top, there’s a banner saying Tools, Lawn & Garden, Shop Craftsman Here, and Welcome to your first destination for Craftsman. Browse and discover the widest selection of Craftsman tools on the planet.
From the Reuters story,
But according to the complaint, Sears breached the license agreement by launching its new tool line and touting its stores as “the real home of the broadest assortment of Craftsman.”
Stanley said the tagline falsely implies that other Craftsman products are “somehow illegitimate.”
It also said Sears’ actions threaten to confuse shoppers and irreparably harm Stanley’s own Craftsman brand and trademarks, as well as its goodwill and customer relationships.
I didn’t see this language in Sears’ Craftsman marketing, but then I found Sears’ press release for the Craftsman Ultimate Collection tools.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Sears is the real home of the broadest assortment of Craftsman, and we’re pleased to offer our customers innovative new products from this power brand,” said Peter Boutros, president of Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard and chief brand officer for Sears and Kmart. “What better way to ensure our mechanic sets are professional-grade, than by working with professionals to create the set? With the Ultimate Collection, we are proud to be offering professional-grade tools we know our customers will love. And these tool sets are only available at Sears.”
(Emphasis is ours.)
Ah, I can see why Stanley Black & Decker would take offense to that.
Here’s a section that’s under Craftsman at Sears:
And Sears is your first destination for Craftsman products, with the widest selection on the planet and the original home of Craftsman. Craftsman at Sears continues to develop innovative tools and products, earning a reputation for unsurpassed quality and durability.
To me, it seems that Sears sees its Craftsman tools as competing with Stanley Black & Decker Craftsman tools.
If you recall, Sears launched several new Craftsman 20V cordless power tools around the same time that Craftsman V20 cordless power tools came to market, and the two platforms are not compatible with each other. I was convinced that the two lines could cause confusion among customers. The timing was suspect, but I tried not to jump to any judgements.
But launching the new Craftsman Ultimate Collection and saying “Sears is the real home of the broadest assortment of Craftsman”?
By itself, I’d say that maybe it was a poor choice of words. But with the Google search advertisement placements and landing pages that talk about Sears having the widest selection of Craftsman tools on the planet, and the “Craftsman Challenge,” it’s no wonder Stanley Black & Decker initiated a lawsuit.
I have never seen a licensed tool brand or marketer do what Sears is doing, but then again Sears and Stanley Black & Decker’s Craftsman sale and licensing agreement is a unique circumstance.
If you ask me, Sears is going to have a very difficult time justifying their marketing language, or arguing that it won’t likely cause customer confusion.
Sears Craftsman tools vs. Stanley Black & Decker Craftsman tools could have been healthy competition to the benefit of users. But I wonder and have to ask – why is Sears developing new Craftsman cordless power tools and mechanics tool sets now, when Stanley Black & Decker is launching and expanding their own Craftsman tool offerings? Why didn’t Sears put this kind of effort into the Craftsman brand in the years prior to selling the Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker?
This is a mess.
Thank you to Aaron for the heads-up!