NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bridgestone/Firestone is taking GPX International Tire Corp. to court on accusations the company committed trademark infringements and falsely advertised in regards to Firestone forestry tires.
BFS filed the lawsuit Jan. 31 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Central Division. It claims GPX is infringing on a Firestone off-the-road tire brand name, using knock-offs of a product category tagline and a forestry tire design, as well as disseminating false and misleading advertising involving comparisons of the two firm´s products.
GPX of Malden, Mass., said in a statement it "strongly denies" BFS´s allegations and "intends to fully explore its claims against Firestone for business slander and anti-competitive activity."
GPX said BFS filed the lawsuit to discredit GPX in the marketplace and besmirch its reputation.
However, one of the issues in the lawsuit, regarding the use of Firestone´s Rock Master brand name, may be resolved. BFS said it has held, since as early as 1981, the trademark for the Rock Master name used for a line of Firestone mining, construction and earthmoving tires.
GPX, which has produced five sizes of its own Rock Master heavy duty, rough terrain tires for four years, claimed that "nowhere in their promo material does Firestone indicate that Rock Master is a trademark of Firestone." But GPX added that now that is has been notified of the trademark, it has voluntarily removed the Rock Master name from its Web site and will change the name of its tires.
Forestry tire complaint
Still under contention is BFS´s claim that GPX produces a forestry tire that is "a blatant copy" of Firestone´s Forestry Flotation 23° Deep Tread Logger HF-3, which features a six repeating bolt design between each tire tread called the "Six-Bolt Imprint Design." That tire was introduced around 1986.
GPX denied in a prepared statement that it copied the design. The firm said the design originally was used on tires produced by United Tire in the late 1970s, early 1980s.
GPX Chairman Robert Sherkin was a member of the senior management team at the former United Tire & Rubber Co. in Toronto for 20 years until 1993. GPX said United Tire produced the six bolt design for a 68/50-32 forestry tire in two different tread depths using removable tread blocks that were bolted into the mold.
"The ´Six Bolt Imprint´ was the unavoidable consequence of having to attach tread blocks with bolts. When Firestone subsequently produced this size, they copied United´s tire down to the ´Six Bolt Imprint,´ " GPX claims.
GPX said the GPX tires in question are produced from the original United Tire mold which was sent to China in 1986 as part of a joint venture with the municipality of Tianjin.
BFS also is contesting the use of a similar tagline.
The Nashville-based tire maker said it has used the tagline, "The leader in the forest," for its Firestone forestry tires since 1992 and owns the U.S. trademark for retail store services. BFS took issue with GPX´s "First in the forest" tagline with competing tires in the same trade channels as Firestone tires.
GPX countered that the taglines are not the same and GPX hasn´t used its tagline since 2004, and it claimed that its tagline "was used extensively by United Tire as early as 1988 — long prior to Firestone´s use."
Advertising at issue
BFS also claims a GPX "technical comparison" advertisement made false and misleading product comparisons between GPX´s Log Stomper tires and Firestone´s competing tires. BFS took issue with a chart and statement implying that heavier ply ratings equate to superior quality and performance of the Log Stomper over Firestone´s tires.
BFS also contested the truthfulness of a chart and statement communicating that increased tread depth equates to superior quality and performance of GPX´s tires over Firestone´s tires.
BFS also protested the advertised claim that the Log Stomper is "second to none." The firm said that indicates GPX´s forestry tires are superior in quality to all other forestry tires "and/or that no other forestry tire holds a greater market share. Neither is true."
GPX replied its ads are truthful, and its tires are produced in heavier ply ratings and deeper tread depths than competitors´ tires.