Printer ink makers, vendors settle with Epson

Seiko Epson has won assurances from a number of manufacturers and importers of ink cartridges that the companies will end their business with Epson-compatible cartridges, it said Tuesday.

In February this year Epson filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) against 24 companies that manufacture, import or distribute after-market ink cartridges for sale in the United States. The complaint sought to ban the companies from importing or selling the cartridges in the United States. At the same time Epson filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Portland against the same companies seeking damages for the alleged intellectual property infringement.

Of the 24 companies, five have agreed to settle with Epson at both the ITC and district court. A further three companies have agreed with the ITC to stop importing cartridges, but will have their cases heard at the district court. Another eight companies have had default judgments filed against them at the ITC because they failed to respond to the complaint with the time allowed, said Epson. Trials against the remaining companies at the ITC will begin in January.

The settlements and judgments are the latest in a line of legal victories by Epson against third-party ink-cartridge makers, distributors and vendors.

In June this year a court in Taiwan barred a local manufacturer of continuous ink supply systems from producing models for Seiko Epson printers after receiving a petition from the Japanese company. A month earlier Epson succeeded in getting four German online retailers of printer ink cartridges to stop selling a number of third-party ink cartridges designed for use in Epson printers.

Printer makers like Epson typically rely on a business model that sees them selling printers at little or no profit, then making money down the line on ink cartridges and other consumable items. Epson sells its own replacement cartridges and licenses a number of companies to make and sell Epson-compatible products. The third-party vendors targeted by Epson have no relationship with the printer-maker and so it doesn't directly gain from any of their business.

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