BIC Corp. has sued several Chinese companies for allegedly manufacturing counterfeit lighters. The lighter company is also going after their U.S. based distributors.
Counterfeiters are using the BIC trademark
BIC Vice President Steve Burkhart claims the companies are trying to get a free ride on the BIC lighter’s iconic look by selling imitation lighters that use the company’s registered trademarks. Burkhart also stated there are many counterfeit goods being imported into the U.S. With its lawsuit, BIC is trying to draw attention to the problem of intellectual property theft.
Companies stand accused of multiple intellectual property violations
BIC’s lawsuit claims the companies engaged in trademark infringement, trademark dilution, false advertising, deceptive practices and unfair competition. The U.S. distributors include Arrow Lighter Inc, Milan Import Export Company and Excel Wholesale Distributors. Arrow Lighter is one of the top lighter manufacturers in the world. The company makes more than 700 million lighters a year.
BIC also claims the fake lighters are unsafe
BIC also alleges the lighters pose a safety threat to U.S. consumers. The company tested the alleged counterfeit lighters by U.S. safety standards and found the lighters failed the tests.
To prove trademark infringement occurred, a company must show:
- It owns the trademark
- The ownership of the trademark is senior to other companies
- The other company’s use of the trademark is likely to confuse consumers
Trademark infringement penalties
A company found guilty of trademark infringement must pay damages for the trademark owner’s lost profits. If the company intentionally violated trademark, the court can award damages of three times the amount of lost profits. Though it is rare, trademark infringers may also receive jail time.