- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The maker of Zippo lighters plans to lay off about 15 percent of its work force, partly because knockoffs of its trademarked lighters are hurting the bottom line.

Zippo Manufacturing Co. said it plans to lay off 121 workers, effective today.

In addition to the knockoffs, the company blamed “often confusing” Transportation Security Administration regulations governing lighters, an increase in gasoline and heating fuel prices, and anti-smoking pressure.

“We truly regret these layoffs, but business conditions have simply forced us to reduce costs in all areas, including personnel levels,” Greg Booth, Zippo’s president and chief executive officer, told employees Wednesday. “Should business pick up substantially in the months to come, we hope to be able to call back some of those who were laid off.”

Despite strong sales in several overseas markets, Zippo said its business in Japan and China had been hurt substantially. It was not clear how significant a role knockoffs played in those markets.

Last month, Zippo filed its first complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission to stop the manufacture and sale of knockoffs since the company obtained trademark registration four years ago. Many knockoffs come from China, and the complaint named four Chinese companies.

Knockoffs consume 30 percent of Zippo’s business, company attorney Jeff Duke said in August.

The Bradford-based company, founded in 1982, employs about 800 people in McKean County, a rural area along the New York border.

Zippo makes more than 12 million lighters a year. Several million fanss collect the thousands of designs it has offered over the years.

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