Brief

Baldwin, Grothman, Fitzgerald urge feds to investigate Chinese firm on Wis. company’s behalf

By: - September 29, 2022 2:22 pm
Milwaukee Federal Courthouse

The federal courthouse in Milwaukee. (Joseph | Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A bipartisan congressional team has gone to bat for a small Wisconsin manufacturer that won a federal lawsuit against a Chinese furniture giant accused of stealing its intellectual property.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and U.S. Reps. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) and Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) joined in letters to three federal agencies urging action against Man Wah Holdings and its American subsidiary. 

Raffel Systems LLC in Germantown was awarded $106 million in damages in federal court in June after a jury found that Man Wah sold knockoffs of Raffel’s patented, lighted cup holder to be installed in furniture. 

In letters to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CSPC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), Baldwin, Grothman and Fitzgerald are asking the agencies to investigate Man Wah for violations of various federal laws.

The letter to the CSPC states that Raffel was receiving consumer safety complaints because of defective copies of its cup holders made by Man Wah.  The defects “included electrical faults that could have exposed consumers to potential safety risks,” according to the letter. 

It asks the product safety commission to investigate whether the knockoff manufacturer broke federal consumer protection laws by not reporting its own “potentially defective and dangerous products” to the agency.

The FTC letter asks for Man Wah to be investigated for possible violations of the federal law prohibiting unfair actions or deception in commerce. The ITC letter seeks an investigation of “harmful trade practices” by the company. 

Both letters cite testimony from the federal lawsuit that the Chinese manufacturer produced “cup holders that fraudulently included Raffel’s patent number and manufacturing information.” The knockoff company also sold “dangerously defective knockoffs to unsuspecting suppliers and customers,” the letters state.

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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