EPSON CHALLENGED …..INK PATENT BATTLE

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EPSON CHALLENGED …..INK PATENT BATTLE

 user 2006-10-24 at 4:28:00 pm Views: 79
  • #16686

    Epson challenged in patent battle
    Ink
    cartridge market set for court ruling as import company refuses to back
    down.A court battle is set to determine the future of the UK ink
    cartridge market with the possibility of a landmark legal decision over
    patent rights.The outcome of the litigation could lead to a change in
    the shape of the imaging industry if a court rules against Seiko Epson
    Corporation (SEC) in its patent dispute with Medea International, an
    import firm based in Dundee, Scotland.Earlier this year, SEC commenced
    a series of legal proceedings against smaller rivals it claimed were
    infringing its UK patent rights.But directors at Medea claim their
    Inkrite PhotoPlus cartridges do not infringe on Epson products and
    insist “our system, our process and the basic scientific principles
    used for its operation are fundamentally different”.In August, Epson
    succeeded in agreeing to settle a separate intellectual property rights
    action against a UK-based internet retailer, Recharge Inkjet
    Technologies, which traded online as CartridgeMonkey.As part of the
    agreement, Recharge agreed not to infringe Epson’s patents and
    registered designs and to make a substantial settlement payment to
    Epson.But news of the impending court battle could seriously handicap
    Epson’s continued efforts to clean up the cartridge market as potential
    rivals wait for the judge’s decision with interest.

    Imaging
    industry expert Jim Forrest, a senior analyst at Lyra Research, told
    OPI: “If the court decision does go against Epson I would imagine we
    would be seeing a lot more Epson compatible products hitting the
    market.”Before they started issuing lawsuits the floodgates were open
    and the company has been successful in dramatically reducing this
    market. However, if they lose the case the clock will be reset and the
    dozens and dozens of companies that were affected by the threat of
    legal action will be returning to the market.”Epson has been extremely
    successful in taking a lot of these compatibles off the market with
    these lawsuits. However, this is the first time to the best of my
    knowledge that a company has refused to settle and back down. I’m
    surprised that they’ve decided to fight the battle.”This is a high-risk
    strategy for Medea but it certainly could be counter-productive for
    Epson.”Epson – one of the top four printer manufacturers together with
    Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark – announced it means business when
    it comes to protecting its patents.Epson claims that Medea, a computer
    consumables distributor in the UK and Europe, has infringed on patents
    belonging to Epson by importing ink cartridges compatible with Epson
    printers into the UK. Medea sells these imported cartridges in the UK
    under a number of brands, including Inkrite PhotoPlus.In a press
    statement, Epson insists Medea’s imported cartridges have a spongeless
    valve design which it claims is too similar to Epson’s patented Smart
    Valve Technology.Seiichi Hirano, CEO of the Imaging Products Operations
    Division at Seiko Epson, said: “We do not take the decision to litigate
    against another company lightly. However, to protect our technology
    against the various claims being made by Medea International and by its
    continued acts of importation into the UK which infringe Epson’s UK
    patents and which undermine the benefits provided to our customers,
    Epson has been forced into taking the decision of starting UK patent
    infringement proceedings.”Third-party companies currently have 38
    percent market share in unit terms and 24 percent in revenue terms – a
    modest figure because their cartridges are cheaper to buy.Managing
    Director at Medea International, Yusuf Okhai, told OPI: “Perhaps SEC
    are all too aware that when customers compare Inkrite to Epson OEM
    cartridges, they will also make the smart decision and use that product
    that gives them the highest ‘bang per buck’, and perhaps SEC don’t feel
    altogether confident that an informed consumer will choose to use their
    high priced products – so they choose to revert to using corporate
    bullying tactics, trying to squash the competitors with endless legal
    documents and claims that most can ill afford.”However, we are going to
    defend our products and our investment. We can only hope that the
    consumer will take a look at what we have to offer and get the chance
    to make up their own minds. If people like us don’t challenge this
    monopolistic market that the OEMs will always try to protect using
    these restrictive measures, only the consumer will pay.”The most common
    question we are asked is how it is possible for a small company to
    produce what we refer to as superior technology.”Simply put, ‘Necessity
    is the mother of invention’. If we made millions of dollars from
    selling 10-year-old technology at extortionate prices by maintaining an
    artificial monopoly, I don’t think I would spend the time, energy,
    effort and money to make something better.”But we don’t – we need to
    innovate to survive. We need to deliver consistently more for a price
    that is consistently less in order to sell against the giants of this
    industry. So we are still fighting our corner, and will continue to do
    so.”