Thursday, August 31, 2006

Chinese Counterfeiting: US ITC Investigates Zippo's Complaint of Infringement of US Trademark

The US International Trade Commission is investigating a complaint by Zippo Manufacturing Co, Inc. of Bradford, Pennsylvania and Zippmark, Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware.

Complaint was filed May 16, 2006 under section 337 of the Tarif Act of 1930, as amended, 19 USC section 1997. A supplement to the complaint was filed on June 5, 2006. The complaint as supplemented alleges violation of section 337 (as amended 19 USC section 1337) in the importation into the US, the sale of importation, and the sale within the US after importation of certain lighters by reason of infringement of US Trademark No. 2,606,241. (which corresponds to an infringement of 19 USC 1337 (a) (1) (C): The importation into the United States, the sale for importation, or the sale within the United States after importation by the owner, importer, or consignee, of articles that infringe a valid and enforceable United States trademark registered under the Trademark Act of 1946 [15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq.].)
The complaint further alleges that an industry in the US exists as required by subsection (a)(2) of section 337 (as amended 19 USC section 1337).

Zippo Manufacturing and Zippmark request that the US ITC institute an investigation and, after that issue a general exclusion order and cease and desist orders. More info about the Section 337 investigation you can find here.

The respondents of the investigation are four Chinese Producers:
Tung Fong International Promotion Co, Ltd. Hong Kong;
Wenzhou Star Smoking Set Co., Ltd., of China;
Taizhou Rongshi Lighter Development Co., of China;
Wenzhou Tailier Smoking Set Co., Ltd., of China.

And two US Distributors: of Bellmore, New York;
Kalan LP (dba Kalan Trendsetting Gifts & Novelties) of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania;
Vista Wholesale of Greencastle, Indiana.

The US ITC's notice of investigation, pursuant to 19 USC section 1337 can be found here (pdf) or here.

Inflammory language
Two years ago Zippo complained that the counterfeiting in China affected Zippo and Bradford, Pennsylvania, USA. A few governement officials visited the Zippo plant, including
US Department of Commerce Assistent Secretary William Lash, who lashed out to Chinese counterfeiters: "There is no product in the world that is not being copied in China. There is no limit to their creativity and lack of conscience." Besides these inflammatory exclamations probably inspired by the firy atmosphere that goes with a lighters plant, the Zippo people argued that counterfeiting not only hurts their business, and damages their brand, but it could also puts the public health and safety in danger. Jeff Duke, legal counsel for Zippo said that Zippo was named twice in law suits that were not their products. And on top of counterfeit trademarks, copyrights are infringed, by putting art and pictures on lighters, including Walt Disney's figures. Zippo argues it would never put art that is attractive to children on lighters. Read Zippo's article here.

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