Seiko Epson sues printer cartridge makers

Epson files patent-infringement lawsuits against two third party cartridge makers.

Moving to protect its lucrative printer cartridge business, Seiko Epson has filed patent infringement lawsuits against two companies that manufacture replacement cartridges for its printers.

Seiko Epson claims that certain cartridges made by Arcor, of Nantes, France, and Multi-Union Trading Co. Ltd., of Hong Kong, infringe on several of its cartridge-related patents. Seiko Epson, along with two U.S. affiliates, filed lawsuits against each of the companies in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in Portland.

The complaint against Arcor was filed Monday. It alleges that more than 30 cartridges produced by Arcor and its U.S. and German subsidiaries infringe on Seiko Epson patents.

The complaint against Multi-Union was filed slightly earlier, on April 21, and expands on an prior suit filed against the company, which uses the PrintRite brand for its cartridges. Seiko Epson's original complaint was focused on 23 Multi-Union cartridges, and the latest adds a further 49 cartridges to the complaint..

The filings cite a total of 16 patents altogether. They are related largely to dot-matrix printers, but some cover ink-jet printers, according to copies of the documents.

In both cases, Seiko Epson is asking the court to enjoin the companies from continued infringement. It is also asking for payment equivalent to triple the damages it claims to have incurred, and for its legal costs.

The lawsuits come shortly after a federal judge issued a summary judgment that 23 of Multi-Union's cartridges from the initial complaint infringe on Seiko Epson's patents, according to Seiko Epson.

Printer makers such as Seiko Epson typically make most of their profits selling cartridges for their printers. Companies such as Arcor and Nantes sell replacement cartridges that typically cost less and carry less well known brands.

The lawsuits are not an effort to stamp out the third-party cartridge market and are aimed only at companies that have infringed Epson's patents, said Alastair Bourne, a spokesman for Seiko Epson in Tokyo. "Lots of companies make ink cartridges [for Epson printers.] If it's fair competition we have no complaints."

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