Epson case keeps rival's printer cartriges out of US

Epson has scored a legal victory over Hong Kong-based ink cartridge maker Multi-Union in a patent infringement case.

Seiko Epson has scored a victory against a major third-party manufacturer of ink cartridges that Epson had claimed was infringing on some of its patents.

The Japanese printer maker reached a settlement with Multi-Union Trading that will see 75 of Multi-Union's cartridge models barred from being imported and sold in the U.S., Epson said. Hong Kong-based Multi-Union sells its products in the U.S. under the PrintRite brand. The settlement also includes a financial agreement, terms of which were not disclosed.

The settlement resolves two court cases Epson had brought against Multi-Union at the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in Portland, in April 2001 and April this year, Epson said. The cases covered 30 patents.

A similar case against Armor SA, a Nantes, France, maker of third-party cartridges filed in April this year continues, said Alastair Bourne, a spokesman for Epson, which is based in Suwa, Japan.

Printer makers such as Epson generally make a large chunk of their profits selling cartridges for their printers. Companies such as Armor and Multi-Union sell replacement cartridges that typically cost less and carry less well-known brands.

Epson said the lawsuits aren't about keeping competing products out of the market.

"Epson believes that its ink-jet printers and genuine inks provide users with advantages in terms of print quality, durability and value for money, and as such welcomes fair competition in the marketplace," said Bourne. "However, we have invested considerable resources into developing our unique technologies and will vigorously defend our intellectual property."