RP: I have seen your designs with the Vianney Halter name on them, was this planned?
JB: He is using them without my permission.
OK, this was an interview from 2000, and perhaps permissions have been negotiated and granted since then, or perhaps everyone has just cooled off a little. The point is that at that time, JB obviously felt that Vianney had stolen his designs.
Now, while this detail does tend to weaken Geo's case, I neverthless regard Geo's basic point as still being valid. JB may have felt that Vianney "stole" his design, but initially there was some level of collaboration. There has never been any level of collaboration (at least publicly documented) between RM and Cvstos. Cvstos certainly can't claim that "we started out working together on this design, then there was a falling-out, and both of us now claim ownership of the IP and are running with it".
(This scenario takes me back to 1977, with Magazine's "Shot By Both Sides" utilising the same chorus riff as The Buzzcocks' contemporaneous chart release "Lipstick" - Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto having rather acrimoniously parted company shortly after co-writing said chord sequence...)
No, the Cvstos tonneau-shaped range of watches is simply a blatant and shameless rip-off of a singularly original and highly successful design by Richard Mille. Whether it qualifies as actual "theft" is something that remains untested in law - as long as RM doesn't litigate. But it's obvious to all and sundry what's going on here.
I return to my original statement - several miles higher up in this thread. So long as Cvstos start coming up with some original design and/or engineering ideas, and so long as their execution continues along the ambitious path mapped out by this new series of high-end offerings, then I'm prepared to excuse their rather ignoble beginnings and not begrudge them whatever prosperity comes their way. However: the sooner Cvstos get rid of these all-too-obvious "hommage" case designs and spare-tyre crowns, the better.
(BTW, let me be the first to point out another "steal" - the use of a "V" rune in place of the letter "U". Bivvle-Gari must be well riled over that one!)