BIC files suit to stop importation, sale of ‘knock-off’ products

Shelton-based BIC, a recognized world leader in manufacturing stationery, lighters and shavers, announced this week that it has filed lawsuits before the International Trade Commission (ITC) and the U.S. Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York to stop the importation and sale in the United States of low-quality, Chinese-made knock-off pocket lighters that imitate the iconic design of BIC's lighters.

According to a press release from BIC, this infringement of the company’s registered trademarks not only “negatively impacts the brand equity and reputation that the company has earned in connection with its pocket lighter over the past 45 years, but more importantly has allowed the defendants to introduce products into the marketplace likely to confuse and mislead the American consumer.”

The ITC complaint, which was officially filed on Dec. 6, also alleges that the defendants have engaged in unlawful acts, including the unlicensed importation into the United States, sale for importation into the United States, and/or sale after importation into the United States of certain pocket lighters. The defendants named in the ITC complaint include Arrow Lighter, Inc. doing business as (d/b/a) MK Lighter, Inc. and MK Lighter Co., Zhuoye Lighter Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Wellpine Co., Ltd., Benxi Fenghe Lighter Co., Ltd., Excel Wholesale Distributors Inc. and Milan Import Export Co., LLC.  The imitation pocket lighters are sold under the brand names MK, TuTu and Star.

"For more than 40 years, BIC's pocket lighter, with its iconic look, has become famous in the minds of consumers and trusted for its consistent high-quality and unyielding commitment to safety," said Steve Burkhart, vice president and general counsel at BIC.

"The companies importing and selling these imitation lighters are attempting to free ride on BIC's success by appropriating BIC's distinctive registered trademarks and confusing American consumers into believing that they are buying a BIC product, which is trusted for its high-quality and safety,” added Burkhart. “The confusion is real, and so are the consequences. As the industry-leader, BIC is adamant about defending our consumers, customers' employees, and our brand, and that includes using every resource afforded under the law to remove these low-quality imitation products from the marketplace."

According to the company’s press release, BIC tested the MK lighters and found that they do not conform to the same stringent safety and quality standards as BIC's. MK merely imitates BIC's iconic appearance, selling consumers an inferior, unsafe product hoping to take advantage of BIC's immense consumer goodwill, stated the release.

BIC urges consumers and customers to always confirm they are purchasing a safe, high-quality BIC lighter, buying only from reputable retailers.

“The defendants' attempts to free ride on BIC's goodwill includes copying BIC's Material Safety Data Sheet, which provides essential safety, transportation and storage information,” according to the release. “This again misleads consumers and customers into believing the imitation lighters are of the same quality and specifications as genuine BIC lighters.”

BIC officials stated that the company manufactures nearly a million pocket lighters in the United States daily, and all BIC® pocket lighters are fully compliant with all applicable safety standards in every country where BIC operates, and meet or exceed international safety standards.