Michelin North America announced it is filing a patent infringement case against Tri-Ace Wheel & Tire Corporation of Houston, including its Black Bear USA affiliate, for importing and selling a Chinese counterfeit tire that violates patent protections for the BFGoodrich Tires All-Terrain T/A KO2.
In its complaint, Michelin alleges that the Black Bear All-Terrain II tire from Tri-Ace includes a virtually identical tread design with substantially the same features as those protected by patents for the All-Terrain T/A KO2, which Michelin North America manufactures in the United States under its wholly owned BFGoodrich Tires brand. DOT markings on the Black Bear All-Terrain II tire indicate the product is manufactured in China.
The BFGoodrich Tires All-Terrain T/A KO tire, the predecessor for the current “KO2” product at the center of the Tri-Ace litigation, created and defined the all-terrain category when it was introduced in 1976. Every KO2 is stamped with “Baja Champion” on the sidewall, representing its class-winning status in the grueling SCORE Baja 1000. KO2 also is consistently ranked at or near the top of its category, based on performance and driver preference. Buyers on tirerack.com, for example, report driving the KO2 more than 12 million miles and assign a 4.5-star rating (from a maximum 5 stars). KO2 has been selected as original equipment for the Ford F-150 Raptor and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. The tire has been recommended by experts at respected outlets such as Outside magazine, Gear Patrol, Car & Driver magazine, Four Wheeler magazine and many others.
“Today’s KO2 is unmatched for driver loyalty, cultural off-road relevance and expert recommendations. The product and its legacy represent the achievement of many years of technical development in the Michelin organization,” said Harold Phillips, global general manager for BFGoodrich Tires brand, a wholly owned Michelin entity based in the United States. “Many competitors have tried and failed to match its capabilities. Michelin will aggressively defend KO2 against Chinese impostors, and any illegal use of our intellectual property.”