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 user 2009-09-15 at 2:17:53 pm Views: 74
  • #22534
    Epson has filed to dismiss the trespass and espionage claims.
    If you think the ink for your printer is too expensive, you’re not alone.
    consumer magazine estimated recently that drop-for-drop, printer ink is
    seven times more expensive than vintage champagne. And with such
    prices, it’s not surprising printer companies spend a lot of time
    clamping-down on cheaper ink cartridge knock-offs.

    As Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, one such legal battle in Oregon is generating some nasty allegations of corporate espionage.

    you remember what you paid the last time you bought an ink refill for
    your printer? $30, $50, $70 And how many pages did you print before you
    had to get another refill?

    For years, companies like Epson,
    Hewlett-Packard and Canon, have relied on the sale of replacement ink
    cartridges to bolster profits. But as Clackamas Town Center shoppers
    Scott Davis, Allissa Gail and Angle Hide illustrate, it’s a business
    model that ticks some people off.

    Scott Davis: “Computer cartridges the ink. It’s just way too expensive. It’s ridiculous.”

    Allissa Gail: “Every time I go to buy a new cartridge it’s $40, $50.”

    Kristian: “Does that seem like a good deal to you?”

    Allisa Gail: “No, it’s very expensive.”

    Hide: “I’m very often out of ink, at least every six months, and I run
    it out to where it’s almost dead and then my business stops and the
    world ends until I can afford 64 more dollars for more ink. I mean
    that’s a lot of money when you’re on a tight budget.”

    With such large sums involved, dozens of companies have sprung up to muscle in and provide cheaper cartridges.

    April, Epson, which operates one of its large ink carteridge factories
    here in Oregon, fought back against those companies.  It filed suit in
    federal court in Portland, saying several of them are violating import

    One company Green Project, collects old Epson cartridges,
    takes them to China, cracks-off their tops, and refills them with ink. 
    Then it brings them back to sell.

    Company president, Joseph Wu, says Green Project is  doing nothing wrong – quite the opposite in fact.

    Wu:“These cartridges are being discarded every year in the 100’s of
    millions. So our goal is to collect these cartridges and do something
    good with them.”

    Central to Epson’s case is whether Green Project  and others collect empties outside the U.S.  Epson says that’s unlawful.

    against this legally fraught back ground that Green Project has now
    countersued against Epson, claiming corporate espionage.

    Wu says
    last year, a man turned up a Green Project’s trade show booth asking
    some very specific questions – beyond those he would expect from a
    regular customer.

    Joseph Wu:“From that day I sort of remembered his face, put it in the back of my mindand youknow went on with business.”

    this year, a month after Epson filed its lawsuit, Wu says a man
    identifying himself as KC Wells phoned, saying he was from a supply
    company and needed a sales packet and price list. A few days later
    Wells  turned up – but not at the front door.

    Joseph Wu: “The
    way that we found out that he was at our business was one of the
    warehouse guys came up and said to the sales rep: ‘oh, your customer is
    here.’ He had snuck through the backdoor of our warehouse and into our

    Wu didn’t know how long the man was there, or what he was doing.

    Joseph Wu: “As soon as I see KC. His face is the same person from who I met at the trade show, who I thought was suspicious.”

    Wu escorted him into a conference room.

    Wu: “So I introduce myself and we start talking for a little bit. And a
    few minutes into the conversation, because I have this feeling that he
    might be a spy for Epson. I ask him, I say, KC I believe you work for
    Epson. Do you work for Epson? And of course he would deny it. He said:
    No I don’t work for Epson, I just want to buy from you guys and run my

    Wu  says when the man left, he  searched the internet in vain for his name and business.

    the world of replacement printer cartridges is small,  and word on the
    street was that Epson had hired an investigator by the name of Herbert

    Wu decided to search that name online. He found it on  a flyer from a conference.

    Wu: “So I go ahead and open the pdf and start reading through it and
    there’s a caption of this person and it says, Herbert Seitz, Epson
    investigator shows us how to spot counterfeit Epson cartridges. And in
    that picture is a picture of KC Wells. And at that point, honestly it
    just hit me. I was like wow. Number one, I can’t believe that Epson
    sent a spy into our business and number two, I can’t believe I was able
    to tie this together to find out who he is.”

    OPB’s attempts to
    contact Herbert Seitz have not been successful. But he told the Wall
    Street Journal recently that he’s is unfamiliar with the allegations,
    then added quote: “I have nothing to say.”

    When asked to respond
    to Wu’s allegations, Epson declined a taped interview. But in a written
    statement, the company says quote “as is common to protect intellectual
    propertyrights, Epson conducted a reasonable investigation using
    legally acceptable measures.”

    Epson added that claims like Green Project’s are frequently asserted in countersuits to patent infringement cases.

    Project’s attorney, Thomas Chan, says in California, where the  alleged
    espionage took place, licensed private detectives are supposed to carry
    ID cards and identify themselves.

    Thomas Chan:“You’re not
    allowed to commit trespass. You’re not allowed to walk into somebody’s
    business. Retail that is different. That’s open to everybody. But this
    is wholesale this is not open to everybody. Especially not walk into
    the warehouse. You’re not allowed to use fake names, you’re not
    supposed to use fake company. I mean you can get permission from the
    licensing board to give you that power. But I don’t believe he has got
    that power.”

    Chan and Green Project are trying to move the case
    from a Portland court closer to their base of operations in Southern

    Epson has filed to dismiss the trespass and espionage claims.