API Aims Lawsuit at Bullseye

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The American Petroleum Institute is suing Bullseye Lubricants for alleged counterfeiting, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, false advertising, and unfair competition.

The complaint was filed last month in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, against Bullseye Lubricants, in association with Bullseye Automotive Products, Inc. and company president Carlos Silva, as a seller of motor oil based in Chicago Ridge, Ill. Lube Report was not able to reach Bullseye officials for comment by deadline, and the companys defense attorneys did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

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In the lawsuit, API claims that Bullseye knowingly deceived consumers by labeling its motor oil with false API accreditation. API adds that Bullseye motor oil neither meets performance standards that warrant API certification nor has license to use any API trademark. API declined to offer any additional comments.

Bullseye allegedly labeled some or all of its products with what with API believes are counterfeit imitations of two distinct API logos, along with false claims and misleading statements suggesting that the products met specific API service category performance levels or were otherwise appropriate for current model automobiles, the complaint charges. Furthermore, API asserts that the Bullseye brand of motor oil will likely damage automobile engines due to misrepresenting its quality.

API is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions and monetary relief, including damages sustained by API in an amount not yet determined but believed to be well in excess of $75,000. It also seeks statutory damages of $1 million per counterfeit mark per type of goods sold. Among other things, it asks for seizure of the alleged counterfeit goods and packaging, as well as the means of making counterfeit goods and marks.

The Petroleum Quality Institute of America first tipped the public off to issues with the Bullseye brand in January 2011.

In January 2011, PQIA issued a consumer alert, reporting extreme quality issues after testing a sample of Bullseye 10W-30 purchased in Sturgis, Mich.

July 2011: PQIA purchased another Bullseye sample, 5W-30 grade, in Austintown, Ohio. PQIA warned that like the first sample, the oil was likely to cause engine damage.

April 2012: PQIA purchased a third Bullseye sample in Phillipsburg, N.J., which yielded test results that led to PQIA issue a Dont Buy alert.

Meanwhile, API had also been collecting samples of Bullseye motor oil bearing imitations of APIs trademark in several locations in Indiana and Ohio. API had its own tests conducted, all of which also determined that the oil did not meet any of the performance standards of any of APIs current or obsolete service categories. The test results concluded that the packaged oil may have been previously used.

API found instances of unauthorized use of its logo on Bullseye oil as recently as June 2012. According to court documents, API attempted to contact Bullseye but found the contact information on Bullseye labels and in public records to be out of date. After eventually reaching Bullseye with an order to cease using imitations of its logo, API found that Bullseye had discontinued using the logo in question, and replaced it with another logo that also bore significant resemblance to APIs, along with the same claims of performance standards.

PQIAs president Thomas Glenn indicated to Lube Report that consumers should continue to avoid the Bullseye brand. Whereas whats printed on the bottle may be a significant issue regarding API trademark infringement, its whats in the bottle that concerns PQIA, Glenn said.Every sample of this brand that PQIA tested showed serious deficiencies with the product, issues serious enough to cause engine failure. This is why PQIA issued a Dont Buy on Bullseye.

The initial pretrial conference has been scheduled for Oct. 16, 2013, in the U.S. Courthouse of Indianapolis.