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Michelin alleges Texas company importing counterfeits

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Michelin North America Inc. of Greenville filed suit Tuesday against Tri-Ace Wheel & Tire Corp. of Houston, including its Black Bear USA affiliate, for importing and selling what it alleges is a Chinese counterfeit tire that violates patent protections for the BFGoodrich Tires All-Terrain T/A KO2, according to a news release from Michelin.

Michelin filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

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 news release said.

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, according to the release.

KO2 has been selected as original equipment for the Ford F-150 Raptor and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the release said.

“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,” the news release said.

"Today's KO2 is unmatched for driver loyalty, cultural off-road relevance and expert recommendations,” Harold Phillips, global general manager for BFGoodrich Tires, said in the release. “The product and its legacy represent the achievement of many years of technical development in the Michelin organization. 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."

Headquartered in Greenville, Michelin North America employs about 22,700 and operates 19 major manufacturing plants.

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