Chinese Tire Firms Accused of Counterfeiting

      LAS VEGAS (CN) – Chinese tire companies pretend to be Japanese or American to trick customers into buying their tires, Toyo Tire and Rubber claims in Federal Court.
     Toyo Tire and Rubber, of Japan, and two of its U.S. subsidiaries sued Japan Toyomoto Tire Corp., Toyomoto (Beijing) International Trading Co. – both of China; Toyomoto Tire (US), a Delaware corporation; and Kabusikiki Tokyo Nihoon Rubber Corp., of Japan.
     Toyo claims the defendants are making their annual appearance at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, the world’s largest tradeshow for aftermarket automotive products. The event opened Tuesday and runs through Friday.
     When the show is over, Toyo says, the Chinese companies will leave the United States and return to China, which has shown little interest in protecting foreigners’ intellectual property rights.
     Toyo seeks an immediate injunction and damages for trademark counterfeiting, trademark infringement and dilution, cybersquatting and unfair competition.
     Toyo describes itself as “one of the world’s most renowned manufacturers and distributors of tires” and claims it is known for its “technological innovations and quality.”
     Toyo says it distributes its tires through a network of 2,000 independent tire dealerships. It says it owns a dozen registered U.S. trademarks and sells more than 4.7 million tires per year in the United States.
     Toyo also sponsors sporting events, NASCAR racers and athletes, and spends millions of dollars on marketing and branding its marks.
     The defendants are piggybacking on Toyo’s name and reputation, Toyo says.
     It claims that though lead defendant Kabusikiki Kaisha Tokyo Nihoon Rubber claims to be based in Japan, it has “no presence in Japan,” could not be found at the Tokyo address listed on its website and uses a phone number with a country code for China.
     Likewise, Toyomoto Tire (US) claims to be based in Delaware, but Toyo says the company “does not appear to have U.S. operations or a known regular presence in the United States.”
     Toyo claims the Chinese companies began using the Toyo marks in 2010, on their tires, in website domain names and social media sites, in which Toyomoto “highlights the word Toyo further increasing the likelihood of confusion and damage to Toyo.”
     Toyo wants the defendants restrained while they are still at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
     It is represented by Michael J. McCue, with of Lewis, Roca and Rothgerber.

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