On June 8, 2020, 3M Company (“3M”) filed trademark counterfeiting claims against Amazon sellers KM Brothers Inc., KMJ Trading Inc., Supreme Sunshine, Inc. and Mao Yu in federal court in the Central District of California Western Division. The suit alleges that the defendants took advantage of the COVID-19 global pandemic and consumers’ need for personal protection equipment (“PPE”) by selling counterfeit 3M branded N-95 masks.
In the complaint, 3M describes itself as the industry-leading provider of scientific, technical and marketing innovations throughout the world. 3M-branded products are widely viewed by both professionals and everyday consumers with a level of goodwill and the 3M logo has become widely recognizable worldwide. During the ongoing global pandemic, demand for PPE has sharply increased for use by members of the medical community and the public, with an emphasis on N-95 masks. 3M markets its N-95 masks as being able to reduce exposure to airborne biological particles and liquid contamination when properly fitted and worn correctly.
In unprecedented circumstances the pandemic has created, 3M states that it has doubled its production of N-95 masks in order to meet the levels of demand. However, the plaintiff argues that the defendants sought to exploit the increased need for 3M-branded N-95 masks by advertising and selling counterfeit, damaged, deficient or otherwise altered versions of genuine 3M N-95 masks.
Specifically, 3M alleges that the defendants began selling the purported 3M N-95 masks on three Amazon accounts beginning on February 25, 2020. In addition to falsely advertising their products as genuine N-95 masks, the defendants took advantage of the public’s critical need for PPE by offering the products at a significantly higher price. For example, 3M lists the price per N-95 mask as $1.27 whereas the defendants sold their product for $23.21 per mask.
The complaint alleges that the defendants have profited in excess of $65,000 by selling counterfeit N-95 masks to the public. 3M asserts that the defendants intended to defraud, mislead and deceive reasonable consumers into believing that they were authorized distributors of 3M products.
The suit brings causes of action for trademark counterfeiting, trademark infringement, unfair competition, false endorsement, false association and false designation of origin, in addition to claims for trademark dilution, false advertising, price gouging and false advertising in violation of California Unfair Competition Law and common law unfair competition.
The case is: 3M Company v. KM Brothers Inc. et al, Case No.: 2:20-cv-05049, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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