Yokohama Tire Corp. (YTC) and its parent Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. of Japan are suing Chinese tire maker Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. Ltd. and U.S. distributor Tireco Inc. for infringing on tread design patents for its Geolandar A/T+II all-terrain light truck/sport-utility vehicle tire.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, claims the Westlake H280 line-made by Hangzhou Zhongce and sold in the U.S. by Tireco-infringe on U.S. Patent No. D 388,058, which covers the ``ornamental design'' for an automobile tire.
In its suit, Yokohama is seeking a judgment that would:
* Enjoin Hangzhou and Tireco from making, using, selling or offering for sale any products ``embodying the invention'' of the patent in question;
* Compel the defendants to notify all distributors, dealers, accounts salesmen, employees, jobbers and suppliers that they have committed patent infringement and to collect all ``infringing'' products and refund or credit the purchasers;
* Compel the defendants to turn over to Yokohama for destruction all advertising, products, labeling, packaging, sales/promotional literature, etc., related to the infringing products;
* Compel the defendants to compensate Yokohama for triple the amount of monetary damages Yokohama has suffered; and
* Compel the defendants to ``disgorge the amounts by which they have been unjustly enriched'' by the alleged infringing of Yokohama patents.
The patent in question was issued in December 1997. Yokohama introduced the Geolandar A/T+ in 2000 and the Geolandar A/T+II in 2001 and claims to have sold more than 1.5 million of them in the U.S. since then. Yokohama said the tire retails for approximately $140.
In a prepared statement, Tireco said: ``Tireco was not involved in any aspect of the creation, design, branding or manufacturing of the product in question. Thus, Tireco firmly believes Yokohama's issue is with the Chinese factory named in the lawsuit and not with Tireco.
``For over 34 years, Tireco has established itself as trustworthy and reliable in the tire industry and will not allow anyone to improperly and inappropriately question its integrity. However, given Tireco's long-standing relationship with Yokohama, Tireco is currently working with them to resolve their concerns with the Chinese factory named in the lawsuit.''