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US Court sees one of the first major trade mark lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic
Over the Easter weekend, respirator manufacturer ‘3M’ filed a claim against New Jersey based Company ‘Performance Supply LLC’ (“PSL”) for allegedly violating federal trademark law through the resale of 3M’s N95 respirator masks at a drastically increased price.
In a complaint filed at Manhattan’s federal court, 3M have claimed that PSL attempted to sell $45m worth of N95 masks to New York City Officials at a "grossly inflated" cost, approximately 500 to 600 percent above 3M’s listed price of just over $1 per mask. Price-gouging is illegal under New York state law but 3M further claim that PSL both exploited 3M’s trademark and used other confusing tactics, in order to mislead the City into thinking that PSL’s behaviour and prices were authorised by 3M.
3M is seeking an injunction against PSL to immediately cease the alleged illegal action, together with damages. 3M have communicated that any damages awarded will be donated to COVID-19 related charitable organisations.
Amid widespread reports that some vendors of medical supplies are vastly overcharging for desperately needed protective devices, 3M have insisted that it is committed to combating the inflation of prices for its products used during the coronavirus pandemic and it would “aggressively pursue third-parties that seek to take advantage of this crisis.”
According to 3M, an increase in similar legal action is likely to be seen as the pandemic unfolds.
Head of Intellectual Property at Howes Percival, Matthew Talbot, said:
"Even though this case is being heard in the US courts, caution should be observed by any company in the UK when considering inflating prices when promoting and selling third party trade-marked goods. The case with 3M demonstrates that large organisations are prepared to protect their trade marks and reputation, potentially globally, even in these difficult times."
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