3M Launches Latest Price-Gouging Trademark Suit

By Bill Donahue
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Law360 (April 28, 2020, 2:22 PM EDT) -- 3M is widening its litigation war against companies that it claims are reselling N95 masks at drastically increased prices, filing a federal trademark lawsuit in Wisconsin against a "deplorable pandemic profiteer."

In a complaint filed Tuesday, 3M says Hulomil LLC tried to sell 250,000 masks to the state of Wisconsin at between two and three times the actual price in an effort to "exploit the current public health emergency."

The case is the latest in a nationwide litigation campaign from 3M — the country's largest producer of N95 masks — that aims to use trademark law to fight price-gouging during the pandemic.

Like previous cases, 3M's new lawsuit claims Hulomil used the 3M trademark and other misleading tactics to dupe Wisconsin into thinking the group's sky-high prices are somehow authorized by 3M.

"Put simply, Hulomil did everything it could to suggest that Wisconsin would be dealing essentially directly with 3M — and thus to associate 3M with its price gouging," the company wrote Tuesday.

According to 3M, Hulomil told the state that it had "direct access from 3M" and could bypass "middle men." Upon payment, the firm allegedly said 3M would "initiate the production" of the masks.

"As Hulomil had no means to secure any respirators 'direct' from 3M and no business relationship of any kind with 3M, these representations … were false, deceptive, unlawful, and harmful to 3M's trademarks, goodwill, and reputation," 3M wrote in the complaint.

Tuesday's case came with a new allegation not seen in 3M's previous price-gouging trademark lawsuits: That Hulomil forced Wisconsin to sign a nondisclosure agreement about the deal.

"To make matters worse, Hulomil has attempted to cover up and conceal all details relating to all sales, marketing, and financial information involving price-gouged 3M products and the use of the 3M brand," the suit said.

The new complaint comes as 3M is pushing forward in its other price-gouging cases. In a lawsuit filed in New York City, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday against an alleged price-gouger; on Monday, 3M sought a similar order in a case filed in California.

A fourth case, filed against a company in Florida, is also pending.

Hulomil did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

3M is represented by Andrew J. Rima of Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum LLP.

The case is 3M Co. v. Hulomil LLC, case number 3:20-cv-00394, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

--Editing by Alyssa Miller.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Information

Case Title

3M Company v. Hulomil LLC


Case Number

3:20-cv-00394

Court

Wisconsin Western

Nature of Suit

Trademark

Judge

William M. Conley

Date Filed

April 28, 2020

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