Findlay Company Received Punitive Fine from Panama for Filing Legitimate Legal Challenge 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are calling on the Administration to ensure the government of Panama treats Bridgestone Americas – which owns Bridgestone APM Company, headquartered in Findlay – fairly. Panama’s Supreme Court ordered Bridgestone to pay a $5.4 million fine after the company challenged a trademark application that infringed on its intellectual property rights. Now the senators are urging the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman to ensure that Panama gives equitable treatment to all American business and allows Bridgestone an opportunity to seek an appropriate remedy in this case.

“The decision by the Panamanian Supreme Court to penalize Bridgestone for trying to protect its property from theft sends a powerful signal to others – even if you play by the rules, that’s no guarantee you’ll be treated fairly,” said Portman. “I have frequently talked about the need for a level playing field for American businesses and workers and this instance is no different. Companies and their workers should not be punished for acting consistently with the law. The Administration has a duty to protect Bridgestone and its workers by ensuring that this fine does not stand."

“It’s outrageous that Panama has ordered Bridgestone to pay millions of dollars for simply trying to protect its own property from theft,” Brown said. “We can’t allow other countries to disadvantage American-owned businesses by treating them unfairly. The Administration must protect Bridgestone’s right to defend its trademark and ensure that Panama’s government walks back its unreasonable fine.”

Full text of the letter is below:

September 30, 2016

Ambassador Michael Froman

United States Trade Representative

Office of the United States Trade Representative

600 17th Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20508

Dear Ambassador Froman:

We write on behalf of Bridgestone Americas to express concern about the climate for American businesses in Panama.  A Supreme Court ruling in Panama regarding a Bridgestone trademark dispute suggests that U.S. companies’ lawful efforts to protect intellectual property rights in Panama could result in punitive damages.  We ask you to engage the Panamanian government to prevent the decision from establishing a troubling precedent for U.S. businesses. 

As you know, the Panama Supreme Court ordered Bridgestone to pay a $5.4 million fine for legitimately challenging a trademark application.  We are pleased that the 2015 Special 301 Report included a specific reference to the Bridgestone trademark case.  And we agree with USTR’s assessment that the Supreme Court’s decision “may discourage other legitimate trademark owners from entering the market out of concern that defending their marks will result in punitive action.”    

We urge you to take action to ensure that Panama treats Bridgestone and all American businesses equitably and fairly.  Specifically, we urge you to work with the Panamanian government to ensure Bridgestone has the opportunity to seek an appropriate remedy in this case.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.