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Moldex, which manufactures respiratory and hearing protection products, claims that Honeywell’s recently-launched HL400-AM antimicrobial-protected earplug dispenser uses the phrase “antimicrobial” unlawfully.
According to the complaint, Honeywell violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by using the word ‘antimicrobial’ without having registered the product with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one that “intends to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate pests.”
The complaint argues that this constitutes false advertising and unfair competition under Section 43A of the Lanham Act, which states:
“Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which . . .in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities . . . shall be liable in a civil action by any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged by such act.”
Moldex states that Honeywell’s characterisation of the product as “antimicrobial” has given it a competitive advantage over rival earplug dispenser manufacturers.
The German manufacturer is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent Honeywell from pursuing “any further act of unfair competition”.
Unqualified for exemption
Honeywell could be qualified for exemption from having to register the product with FIFRA, but Moldex argues that those exemptions do not apply to the dispenser.
“Honeywell’s HL400-AM Antimicrobial-Protected Dispenser must be registered pursuant to FIFRA because it includes a “substance” and “mixture of substances intended for... mitigating any pest” under the statutory definition,” Moldex said.
The complaint also states that HL400-AM does not qualify for an exemption under the FIFRA registration due to Honeywell’s “express and implied human health claims regarding the product’s antimicrobial properties”.
“Honeywell falsely advertises the HL400-AM Antimicrobial-Protected Dispenser provides direct human health benefits, which constitutes a misleading representation in violation of the Lanham Act because it falsely suggests that the pesticide protects consumers rather than the product.
“On information and belief Honeywell’s labelling, marketing, sales calls, and product displays at trade shows, have misrepresented the nature, characteristics, or qualities of their product by falsely alleging direct human health benefits to the consumer,” said the complaint.
LSIPR has approached Honeywell for comment.
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Moldex-Metric, Honeywell, FIFRA, EPA