A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now hard to imagine a world without face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Odds are, when you think masks you likely think N95 respirators or a similar product, likely manufactured by 3M. 3M has since had a massive increase in the demand for its PPE products over the last year. However, with the increased demand for PPE comes the increased opportunity for fraud.
PPE fraud poses a risk to the consumer, who thinks they are using a genuine 3M mask with appropriate certifications, but in reality, is actually using only a “cheap” imitation that dons the 3M logo. Or, in some cases, the offers to sell 3M goods are fraudulent and after millions of dollars are spent to procure the goods, none arrive at the required destination. Specifically, 3M has published notices of fake/counterfeit trends regarding the following face mask models:
3M warns customers to be vigilant and send notices to customers that may assist in determining whether the goods are counterfeit. 3M has now also established a dedicated team to investigate and combat this fraud.
This team not only manages a fraud hotline where it can investigate anonymous tips, but 3M has also retained litigators across the country securing temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions to help protect the consumer and protect 3M’s intellectual property. Throughout 2020, and at the time of this publication, 3M filed 29 lawsuits, seized over 30 million counterfeit respirators, and had been granted 16 temporary restraining orders and 11 preliminary injunctions against businesses and individuals involved in alleged PPE fraud. These companies and individuals that have had a preliminary injunction, default judgment, temporary restraining order, or pending lawsuit against them are listed below. If you are considering doing business with any of these entities, please be advised to consult your legal counsel:
While there have not been adjudications on the merits on all these cases, the allegations are serious as they directly affect public safety. We strongly encourage you to seek legal counsel if you are involved in any purchase or sale of PPE and to verify that the supplier is an authorized 3M distributor. The CSH Law International Business Law section has been monitoring international PPE transactions and may be able to assist in your vetting process.