Minden firm wins scooter case
A Minden-based scooter company was the victor in an extraordinary federal lawsuit that focused on unfair competition by Asian manufacturers.
“It’s one hell of an unusual ruling, and the first time I have ever seen something like this,” said William D. McCann, general counsel for Patmont Motor Werks Inc., inventor of the GoPed scooter.
In March, Patmont filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Reno to overrule trade barriers that prevent U.S. goods from being sold in China.
In addition, the lawsuit sought to protect GoPed products, patents, copyrights and trademarks from Asian copies.
Patmont alleged that Pacific Rim companies in China, Korea and Taiwan were selling inferior and unsafe scooters in the United States. The case, argued by Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, was based on unfair trade practices and conspiracy to restrain trade under anti-trust laws.
Judge Howard McKibbon forbid importing copies of the GoPed brand scooters and prohibits China from exporting copies. McCann said China imposes a 167 percent duty, plus a value-added tax to U.S. imports.
“We are delighted and overwhelmed,” he said of the ruling. “It takes courage for a court to block Chinese exports based on an unfair-competition argument.
“These matters are handled by the World Trade Organization or the Department of Commerce, but our company got no relief from those agencies so the federal court intervened to protect our company.”
McCann said more than a dozen Pacific Rim countries “dumped cheap and unsafe scooter products into the market that copied the trade dress of our products, and they came in at zero duty.
“But,” he added, “if we were to ship a GoPed product to China, it would have cost the buyer 167 percent duty plus a value -added tax, and we felt this was unfair.”
Patmont moved its California operation to escape excessive laws and regulations to businesses. Its products are also distributed from Ireland throughout the world. McCann said while GoPed is “an extremely strong and energetic company,” sales have been “damaged.”
He’s not sure if the decision to stop export of copies will be appealed, but McCann said the $10 million company “shall prevail.”
As for enforcement, McCann said the court order will be distributed to all U.S. Custom agencies at ports of entry, and imports will be checked to ensure they are not in violation.
“For the moment, they will be prevented from entry,” he said.
“Sen. Bill Raggio, who was the lead counsel, was doing everything he can to protect Northern Nevada jobs. … It gives a chance for other small manufacturers to follow suit and protect their rights in the courts.”
Regina Purcell may be reached at email@example.com or (775) 782-5121, ext. 211.