Chinese automaker BYD, which contracted with California to supply millions of N95 respirator masks to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, is suing several Southland businessmen it alleges are selling counterfeit masks, court papers obtained Tuesday show.
“We want to stop the exploitation of consumers during the coronavirus global pandemic,” BYD President Stella Li said in a statement released by the company.
“Tragically, these inferior counterfeit and often defective masks are being distributed to doctors, nurses, first responders, exposing these heroes to increased risk of infection,” Li said. “These counterfeit masks have not gone through the rigorous quality-control and regulatory approval process associated with masks manufactured by BYD. The consequences can be very bad.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles late Monday, alleges false advertising, false designation of origin, trademark dilution and unfair competition and trademark infringement.
Southland businessmen Alexander Khazai, Aaron Arredondo, James Vaughn and Roberto Banke, along with the company Dripstone LLC, are named as defendants.
BYD, which is seeking unspecified damages, pledges to donate any money awarded from the lawsuit to COVID-19 relief efforts, according to the company’s statement.
The complaint alleges the defendants are manufacturing and distributing the inferior masks to doctors, nurses and first responders under the BYD trademark, and their use can cause exposure to increased risk of infection.
BYD — which stands for “Build Your Dreams” — was initially known for renewable energy and electric cars. Earlier this year, however, following the COVID-19 outbreak, the company devoted its resources to manufacturing respiratory masks and other health care and medical devices to address the severe shortage faced by countries worldwide.
BYD formed a subsidiary to sell the medical products in North America, and began working with state and local governments, including California, to supply hospitals and first responders with respiratory masks.
BYD says it is now the single largest manufacturer of respiratory masks in the world, manufacturing 50 million per day. BYD sells the products under their “BYD” and “BYD Care” trademarks.
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