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CBS News(KDKA): Oil Shop Facing $1M Lawsuit From Shell

Lube Pro, located on Route 228, is facing the suit because the owner, Keith Smith, says he wouldn’t take down a sign.

Smith says a Shell Oil representative went to his shop saying he wanted Smith to buy Pennzoil exclusively from Shell.

The problem is that Smith buys Pennzoil and a lot of other brands cheaper from places like Wal-Mart and Costco.

Smith says when he refused to make a deal with Shell, they ordered him to remove his old Pennzoil sign, which sat on his property for years.

James Ross, Smith’s lawyer, says that’s when the trouble began.

“Some stranger came in, big time oil company, telling him to take down a sign that he bought. Keith apparently told them what to do with their suggestion,” said Ross.

And that’s when Shell filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the Pennzoil sign was a trademark infringement, dilutes their business and is false advertising among other things.

Smith scraped together a few thousand dollars and removed the Pennzoil sign, replacing it with a new one.

But Shell Oil is still pursuing the lawsuit.

The corporation has hired one of the city’s largest and most powerful law firms, Eckert-Seamans, to handle the case.

Ross admits Smith may have technically broken trademark laws.

Even so, Ross says the sign has been removed and it should be a moot point.

Meantime, the suit is clearly taking a toll on Smith. He can’t afford his lawyer; he’s out the money he spent to take down the sign; and he’ll never be able to pay Shell if he loses the lawsuit.

Ironically, Pennzoil has given Smith other signs for him to hang on his property. They don’t care about those signs and they’re not mentioned in the lawsuit.

Smith fears the lawsuit will force him into bankruptcy and he may lose his home.

But he still wants to fight.

“They’re used to pushing their dealers around and distributors in a certain way, and I just don’t conform to that. I’m part Italian,” he said.

As of now, the case is still headed for trial.

KDKA’s Paul Martino contacted Shell’s headquarters in Houston, but they say they don’t comment on pending litigation.

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