Epson hits another ink cartridge maker

The UK's Environmental Business Products will stop selling Epson-compatible ink cartridges after being sued by Epson.

For the second time in a week a manufacturer of Epson-compatible ink cartridges is taking its products off the market as a result of legal action by Seiko Epson, the Japanese company said Friday.

Environmental Business Products has stopped importing and supplying Epson-compatible printer cartridges as a result of an out of court settlement between the two companies, Epson said in a statement. Epson had brought proceedings against the London company in the U.K. High Court for infringement of a number of patents and registered designs owned by Epson, the statement said.

The company and others like it offer ink cartridges or refills that can be used in Epson printers and are typically cheaper than those from Epson. For printer makers the sale of replacement ink is a major source of profit.

The action couldn't immediately be confirmed with the U.K. company, which has operations in the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain. The Epson statement included a quote from Environmental Business Products' managing director, saying sales of Epson-compatible cartridges were stopped because the company isn't confident its products would be found not to infringe on Epson's patents.

In addition to the halt in sales, Environmental Business Products will also have to pay legal costs and "a substantial payment" for damages, Epson said. The amounts involved were not disclosed.

Earlier last week Epson reached a settlement with Hong Kong-based Multi-Union Trading Co. Ltd. as part of a patent infringement lawsuit brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in Portland. That will see 75 of Multi-Union's cartridge models barred from being imported and sold in the U.S., Epson said. The cartridges are sold under the PrintRite brand and other names.

Epson is also pursuing a number of other companies, said Alastair Bourne, a spokesman for the Suwa-based company. They include Armor, a third-party cartridge maker in Nantes, France, which is being sued in the same Portland court as Multi-Union. The spokesman wouldn't name any other companies.

The recent string of court actions and resolutions doesn't point to a crackdown but comes as a result of Epson deciding to publicize the legal actions it takes, Bourne said.

"It's important to send a message out that we are serious about defending our intellectual property and also protecting fair competition," he said. "We believe in respecting other people's intellectual property and we expect other people to respect ours and so we'd like to send that message."

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Martyn Williams

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