Face mask manufacturer 3M brought a federal lawsuit against a New Jersey-based company on Friday, claiming it used 3M trademarks to “perpetrate a false and deceptive price-gouging scheme on unwitting consumers, including agencies of government, during the global COVID-10 pandemic.”
According to the 26-page complaint, Performance Supply, LLC, attempted to sell respirator masks to New York City officials at inflated prices by pretending to be a legitimate vendor. 3M alleges that Performance Supply offered to sell millions of 3M-branded N95 masks in a formal quote sent to New York City’s Office of Citywide Procurement in late March. It further alleges that the quote contained references to 3M’s St. Paul, Minnesota, headquarters and Technical Specification Sheets bearing 3M’s trademarks in an effort to “confuse and deceive” New York officials into thinking it was an authorized distributor of 3M products. The lawsuit maintains that Performance Supply has no rights to 3M’s trademarks.
The scheme worked. New York officials prepared a bid to purchase millions of masks from Performance Supply at 500 to 600 percent above 3M’s listed price. The lawsuit asserts that Performance Supply sought to charge New York more than $6.00 per mask, whereas 3M’s price remains just over $1.00 per mask. “3M has not increased the prices that it charges for 3M respirators as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak,” the lawsuit says. “Unfortunately, any number of wrongdoers seek to exploit the current public health emergency and prey on innocent parties through a variety of scams involving 3M N95 respirators and other products in high demand.”
3M does not—and will not—tolerate individuals or entities deceptively trading off the fame and goodwill of the 3M brand and marks for personal gain. This is particularly true against those who seek to exploit the surge in demand for 3M-brand products during the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has already claimed tens of thousands of lives worldwide and more than 5,000 lives in New York State alone.
3M is suing for federal and state trademark infringement, unfair competition, false association, false endorsement, and deceptive acts and practices. Moving forward, the lawsuit states that “any damages, costs, or fees recovered by [3M] will be donated to charitable COVID-19 relief efforts.”
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