BIC files law­suit for knock-off prod­uct sales

Cal­i­for­nia-base com­pany, in­ter­na­tional af­fil­i­ates be­ing sued

The News-Times - - BUSINESS - By Jor­dan Grice Jor­[email protected]­medi­act.com

Lighter and ra­zor man­u­fac­turer BIC is su­ing a Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany and its in­ter­na­tional af­fil­i­ates for im­port­ing and sell­ing what it said are knock-off prod­ucts.

The Shel­ton-based com­pany filed pa­per­work Wed­nes­day with the United States Fed­eral District Court for the Eastern District of New York and with the In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion to stop the im­por­ta­tion and sale of pocket lighters they al­lege are in­fring­ing on the com­pany’s trade­marked prod­uct.

“We’ve been in the U.S. for 50 years ... this isn’t an ac­ci­dent, this isn’t some­body who gets a con­tainer and di­verts it. This is a plan, it seems like, and you can’t al­low this to hap­pen,” said Steve Burkhart, BIC Corp’s Gen­eral Coun­sel. “We play by the rules and this can’t stand.”

The civil law­suit filed in New York al­leges that spe­cific types of pocket lighters im­ported by MK of City of In­dus­try, Calif., and sold un­der the brand names MK, TuTu and Star, are dam­ag­ing BIC’s prof­its and the com­pany’s rep­u­ta­tion.

MK has sev­eral af­fil­i­ates in China.

BIC claimed that the al­leged knock-offs, many of which ap­pear to be Chi­nese-made, are de­ceiv­ing con­sumers with false ad­ver­tis­ing while also risk­ing their safety. The com­pany seeks a jury trial.

BIC tested the MK lighters and found that they do not con­form to safety stan­dards, Burkhart said, adding that prod­ucts from MK failed flame height and drop tests, among oth­ers.

The law­suit al­leges that MK had been in­volved in a 2009 law­suit where a fam­ily of a Texas man al­leged that one of the com­pany’s lighters caused his death.

“Now you may have this dou­ble whammy where some­one is not just de­ceiv­ing the con­sumer but also putting them in harm’s way.” Burkhart said. “These guys failed the safety test and peo­ple may be getting hurt, think­ing it’s our prod­uct and from a le­gal stand­point that’s why we’re su­ing and that can’t stand.”

BIC is seek­ing mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion from MK for loss of busi­ness, dam­aged rep­u­ta­tion and loss of prof­its.

BIC also is ask­ing for at­tor­ney and court costs and un­spec­i­fied puni­tive dam­ages.

In its fil­ing with the ITC, BIC asks the Com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate and ban the im­por­ta­tion and sale of MK’s BIC looka­like prod­ucts in the United States and have the Cal­i­for­nia com­pany de­stroy its in­ven­tory of the knock­offs.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

BIC Con­sumer Prod­ucts Man­u­fac­tur­ing Co. at 565 BIC Drive in Milford in De­cem­ber 2017.

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