BFGoodrich is suing a Chinese counterfeit tire distributor

Around here we love the BFGoodrich All-Terrain A/T KO2 tires. Jeff has a set on his Montero, I have a set on my 4Runner, Chris has a set on his Land Cruiser, and Josh-the-guy has a set on his VW Golf Alltrack (which is really cool in and of itself). None of us have anything but good things to say about these tires with perhaps the exception of them being somewhat pricey. Highway, dirt, mud, or snow, it does not matter, these are just all-around excellent tires.

The problem that companies that make good products have is that there are always other companies that blatantly rip off their product’s design. In case of BFGoodrich, the design of their KO2 tire seems to have heavy influenced (my politically correct term) the design of the Black Bear All-Terrain II tire from Tri-Ace. So much so that Michelin (BFG’s parent company) filed suit against “Tri-Ace Wheel & Tire Corporation of Houston, including its Black Bear USA affiliate, for importing and selling a Chinese counterfeit tire that violates patent protections for the BFGoodrich Tires All-Terrain T/A KO2”.

Casual readers may toss this up to being a money thing – Black Bear selling what is the same thing for fraction of this cost and Michelin is pissed. Yes, but there is also a safety thing. There are so many factors other than looks that make a tire. All of us here have experienced that about the KO2. While Black Bear All-Terrain II may look, and even be similarly named, it is not a KO2. The problem is that buyers may not know this.

Reading this website you’re likely to be an automotive enthusiast and you’re like to know a good tire from a bad tire. Or you at least know to look at Tirerack ratings. But what about Joe the casual pickup driver? The one who hauls a bed full of air to and from his nine-to-five? His tire knowledge and experience is similar to what most people know about mattresses or dishwashers.

When Joe needs tires he’s likely to stop a huge warehouse of a store. He’ll get a gallon of milk and two steaks, perhaps glance at the new TVs before he makes it to tire area. Joe will look at several aggressively looking tires, because that’s what he needs for this truck. Those tires look the same, one is supposedly really great and the other is half the price – how different can they really be, Joe asks. Which one does Joe choose?

Now imagine that Joe has a deadly accident and the root cause was found to be the cheapo tires. Worse, imagine a series of accidents, certainly out the realm of reality, in which the tire that looks exactly like the tire you make is found to be the cause. Not good, right?

Aside from looks, Black Bear seemed to have really taken more than just the design from BFG. They even had their own race truck at the 2016 Baja 1000. I’m not sure where it finished. This year BFGoodrich has become title sponsor for Baja 1000, which they have been dominating for decades.

According to, this is not the first lawsuit against Hong Kong Tri-Ace Wheel & Tire Corp. Recently U.S. District Court for the Central District of California awarded Toyo Tire $16.7 million in a judgment against Hong Kong Tri-Ace Wheel & Tire Corp for infringing on patent designs for the Toyo Open Country M/T tires.

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11 responses to “BFGoodrich is suing a Chinese counterfeit tire distributor”

  1. Lokki Avatar

    Welcome to business with China. Honda Motorcycle has been dealing with this for more than a decade. They introduce a new bike and “90 days” later an -exact- Chinese Copy with only a different name is on the market (exact to the point of parts interchangeability) in China. Honda sues, of course, and it takes about three years for the Chinese courts to rule. In the meantime, production continues. At the end of the three years, Honda wins, but the company is bankrupt with all assets sold and the owners gone. Honda gets nothing in compensation for the lost sales, no one is punished, and when Honda introduces another model, another company starts producing copies. Repeat as desired.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      Fun fact – it’s not illegal under Chinese law to defraud a foreign company or investors, just domestic ones.

  2. outback_ute Avatar

    Sounds like it might be a different company (entity at least) than the Toyo case. Ducking and weaving each court case in succession must be exhausting.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      Toyo got a default judgment–Hong Kong Tri Ace never showed up to court.

      Kamil, the Michelin suit appears to be over a design patent; alleging that the Black Bear tread design infringes Michelin’s tread design. That doesn’t make them counterfeit or imply anything about quality. The owner of the company sued by Toyo appears to have been granted several design patents for tires. If the owner of another design patent thought their design was infringed, they should file suit not only for money, but also to keep their own patent from being invalidated.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        Good point about “overlapping” patent claims. Your licensee will frown when all the sudden there are two corporates demanding fees..

  3. Zentropy Avatar

    Yeah, this sort of practice is getting old. If a company can build something better, faster, or cheaper, then I applaud them and they’ve legitimately earned a share of the market. But they can’t be allowed to do so using someone else’s intellectual property. If China wants to become a respected player in the world economy, they need to crack down on this.

  4. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    am i the only one who has no problem with this? “counterfeit” tires aren’t unsafe, their limits are just lower. these would probably be better on a truck than the no-seasons you’d get on them from the factory, and our healthy culture of litigation means the racks aren’t filled with things that’ll cause mass deaths in the roads. I don’t feel bad at all about this company “ripping off” a tread pattern that you can see any day you drive down the street.

    you get what you pay for. the BFGs will grip better and last longer. if you just need something black and round to keep you off the ground, these are fine. if we’re going to talk about tires with lower limits being unsafe, where do we draw the line? are we going to sue everyone besides Volvo for making unsafe cars?

    1. je zalanka Avatar
      je zalanka

      the only thing unsafe about a car today is the driver. usually ignorant to the extreme of physics, electronics, traction, and land navigation. look how many car buyers only question about the number of cup holders a car has or how loud the infotainment system can be. the law is about protecting stupid idiots from their own stupidity. given that, yeah, we gonna sue everyone.

      1. wunno sev Avatar
        wunno sev

        sure, but look how few people die on the road compared to 40 years ago. it’s not like Johnny Pocket Protector was drawing traction circles on his kids’ napkins in 1971. people have always been stupid; we’re better at protecting them from themselves now. i consider it a good thing.

        1. je zalanka Avatar
          je zalanka

          the idea that we’re better at protecting them from themselves only means mother nature will become ever more creative at removing them from the gene pool. that’s when it will get really expensive. right now, how many mandated systems are in vehicles because of a requirement to protect the ignorant because the government than mandates safety devices in your vehicle is too apathetic to mandate drivers training for the ignorant bastiches that get killed or injured or cause accidents because they were too ignorant to properly operate their $60,000.00 dollar 2.5 ton vehicle? gee, in CO you don’t even need to read any language to pass the drivers written test.

  5. je zalanka Avatar
    je zalanka

    pretty sure a lesson taught to the chinese by their good friends the russians who, in post WW2 ordered Tupolev to make B-29 bombers by copying the few “interned” aircraft from siberia. pretty good copies, the TU-4 was airborne and on the way to bomb the Hungarian revolt into submission in the 1950’s before cooler heads said “Um, wait a minute…”. And you bet the parts interchangeability was there. Stalin specified exact copies, even to the point that the new R-3350 radial engines were manufactured with the tolerances of an engine with 480 hours of operation on them. They did not adapt their wiring to the project, they changed their wiring specifications to the wiring used by boeing.
    still, none of the modern patent theft should be surprising anyone.

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