3M Co. sued K2 Concepts in California and China-based Phoenix Automotive Refinishing this week for allegedly violating seven 3M patents and several trademarks and copyrights.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the Central District Court of California, alleges that certain automotive paint-spraying products made by Phoenix in China infringe upon seven of 3M's patents. The marketing materials for the products, which are marketed and sold in the United States by K2 Concepts, also infringed on 3M's registered copyright and trademarks, the civil complaint said.
The products and advertising materials being challenged involve 3M's PPS cup and liner products that are used in paint-spray guns. The items are used by auto collision-repair shops around the globe because they allow auto paint to be mixed and sprayed more efficiently and neatly.
Officials at Phoenix Automotive could not be reached for comment.
However, K-2 Concepts owner Jim Urbano in Cathedral City, Calif., said in a phone interview that he was "a little surprised" by 3M's lawsuit.
He ordered one shipment of the spray-gun cups and liners from China last year. He acknowledged they were 3M knockoffs, but didn't give it much thought. Urbano saw them online and ordered them, thinking they might be a "cost effective" alternative product that he could sell online to his own graphic designer website customers. He put the products online, but the product didn't sell well, so he removed it from his website months ago.
If the matter goes to trial, Urbano said he will tell the jury: " 'No contest. Yep. We messed up. I am sorry.' I thought that if [3M was] upset with us, we would just get a cease-and-desist order and they'd ask us to stop selling the liners on our website. But we never got a letter. And we already stopped selling the product about eight months ago."
His K-2 Concepts business makes about $100,000 a year selling products to water transfer printing artists, some of whom work on auto parts.
This week, 3M also sued Amphenol Corp. in Delaware for alleged product infringement involving patents on various data transmission cable products.