Deere Cotton-Bale Packager Seeks Ban on Alleged China Knockoffs

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A company that develops packaging for cotton bales harvested with Deere & Co. tractors says it’s facing Chinese knockoffs and wants a U.S. trade agency to block the copycats from entering the country.

Israel-based Tama Group and its U.S. unit filed a complaint on July 7 with the U.S. International Trade Commission saying two Chinese companies and their North American distributors are working together to sell cheaper replicas of a plastic wrapping Tama designed and patented more than a decade ago.

TamaWrap is exclusively designed for John Deere tractors that Tama’s complaint says revolutionized cotton baling, enabling “a single machine to do what, until then, was impossible -- harvest, collect, bale, and uniquely wrap cotton with a single machine and on-board wraps.”

Having an all-in-one John Deere machine is an advantage for growers, with nearly half of cotton harvesting globally still being done by hand.

Cotton futures in the U.S. have climbed to four-month highs recently on concern that drought will hamper crops in Texas, the biggest U.S. state grower.

But a global supply glut has been taking form in recent months amid pandemic lockdowns that have hit retail demand for clothing and other goods in the U.S. and abroad.

The Chinese companies “seek to enter into the United States market for automated cotton harvesting on the backs of Deere and Tama only after Deere and Tama created the market in the first place, and are just now realizing the benefits of their tireless efforts to develop and foster this market,” Tama said in its ITC complaint.

Order Sought

Tama seeks an order preventing further imports of the rival packaging and a halt to sales of products already brought into the country.

The ITC complaint names Zhejiang Yajia Cotton Picker Parts Co. and its distributor, Arkansas-based Southern Marketing Affiliates Inc. It also names Hai’an Xin Fu Yuan of Agricultural Science and Technology Co. and its distributor, Canada-based Gosun Business Development Co.

Tama says the companies’ knockoffs use its trademarked yellow color and are designed to uniquely work inside John Deere machines, but don’t work as well. The company received exclusive patent rights in the U.S. for the plastic cotton-baling material in 2004, and TamaWrap launched in the country in 2009.

TamaWrap’s material includes tracking technology known as radio frequency identification technology, or RFID, allowing user management of individual cotton bales and customer service through the Tama mobile app, the company said in its ITC complaint.

Mirror Lawsuits

Tama filed mirror lawsuits against the companies seeking damages in federal courts in Texas. Those suits are typically put on hold until the ITC completes its investigation. The companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Tama is also suing the two manufacturers individually in China, along with a third company, over the same technology, according to the complaint.

The ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Wrapping Material and Methods for Use in Agricultural Applications, 337-3468, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington). The district court cases are Tama Group v. Southern Marketing Affiliates, 20-1780, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Dallas) and Tama Group v. Gosun Business Development Co., 20-2375, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Houston)

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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