*NEWS*EPSON LAWSUITS SLAMMED…CTG MAKERS

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*NEWS*EPSON LAWSUITS SLAMMED…CTG MAKERS

 user 2006-03-14 at 10:30:00 am Views: 96
  • #14807

    CeBit: Epson lawsuits slammed by cartridge makers
    Makers
    and resellers of third-party ink-jet printer cartridges and refills
    polled at the CeBit show in Germany on Saturday are critical of the way
    Epson has slammed them with lawsuits to protect its lucrative cartridge
    business
    .
    Epson,
    the world’s number two printer maker, filed complaints against 25
    companies in the US and UK in February seeking to bar the manufacture,
    import, or distribution of aftermarket ink cartridges in those
    countries.
    Consumer-friendly business model?
    Aftermarket
    cartridges typically cost much less than official cartridges and
    threaten the printer maker’s business model, which relies on selling a
    low-cost printer and making profits from future sales of ink.
    “They’re
    stealing money from customers. They give them a free printer and then
    steal their money,” said Brian Suh, marketing director of South Korea’s
    EC World, which makes ink-cartridge refill kits that allow consumers to
    replenish used cartridges.
    Suh said he thinks printer makers have
    gotten steadily greedier in the last few years and consumers are being
    treated unfairly. However, that view wasn’t shared by all at CeBit.
    “We
    are okay with what Epson is doing,” said Richard Keller, manager of
    technical engineering at 3T Supplies. The company, which trades under
    the Peach name, develops compatible cartridges in Switzerland and
    manufactures them in the Czech Republic.
    “Low-quality copies are not
    good because the whole price system collapses and it hurts the
    industry,” he said. “But the way they [Epson] are doing it is very
    aggressive.”
    Legal case history
    Epson fought similar battles
    successfully in 2005. It reached settlements with Multi-Union Trading
    of Hong Kong and the UK’s Environmental Business Products and CybaHouse
    that saw all three companies stop importing and selling
    Epson-compatible cartridges in the US and UK markets.
    The cases
    publicised by Seiko Epson to date have ended with out-of-court
    settlements, so the industry remains unsure just exactly where the line
    between patent infringement and innovation lies.
    “The whole
    situation with Epson, the patent issue: we have to be careful,” said 3T
    Supplies’ Keller. “We believe our products don’t infringe their
    patents. We have developed around them. We have our own patents.”

    Big fish feed on the small
    The
    lack of a clear legal ruling is enabling Epson to go after small
    companies, said Udo Rossner, head of sales at JR Inkjet Deutschland.
    “As
    long as there is not a court case they can go around shouting because
    they know tiny little companies can’t go to court,” he said. “If all
    the manufacturers got together and defended it as one it would be a big
    problem [for Seiko Epson].”
    Rossner believes Epson will never be
    able to completely control the market, especially due to its
    international nature, but that it might be easier to control it through
    legal means in the US than in Europe.
    In the US it’s easy because
    corporations have more rights than consumers,” he said. “But in
    continental Europe the consumer has damn hard rights. If they lose one
    case, they lose it all.”