April 27, 2017 / 10:21 PM / 2 years ago

Berkshire's Duracell sues over gray market battery imports

FILE PHOTO: Used Duracell batteries are seen in an office in Kiev April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Anatolii Stepanov

(Reuters) - Duracell, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), on Thursday filed a lawsuit accusing a Missouri wholesaler of illegally selling gray market versions of its copper-top alkaline batteries.

According to a complaint filed in federal court in Chicago, JRS Ventures Inc is importing and selling batteries made in China that were intended for sale only to Duracell’s original equipment manufacturers, to be packaged with products such as appliances and remote controls.

Duracell, which long used the tagline “no regular battery looks like it or lasts like it,” said JRS’s batteries do look like its own but come in packaging that does not mention Duracell’s 10-year guarantee or how to obtain customer service.

Chicago-based Duracell said it learned of the alleged infringement in March, and said that JRS refused its demand to stop selling the infringing batteries.

Purchasers of the infringing batteries “are likely to be confused and indeed disappointed,” Duracell said. “Further, such sales of infringing products cause great damage to Duracell and greatly damage the goodwill in Duracell’s valuable trademarks.”

JRS, based in the St. Louis suburb of O’Fallon, had no immediate comment when reached by phone and did not immediately respond to a separate email seeking comment.

Duracell is seeking a halt to JRS’s alleged infringement, plus unspecified punitive and triple damages.

Berkshire, which is based in Omaha, Nebraska, acquired Duracell from Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N) in February 2016.

The case is Duracell U.S. Operations Inc v JRS Ventures Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 17-03166.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

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