Original Source Press Release:
Multi Union settles with Epson|
(Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - 09:52 EDT)
A press release distributed today by Hong Kong-based Multi Union Trading Co. Ltd. announces a settlement with Seiko Epson Corp. in two patent infringement lawsuit filed by the latter since 2001.
Multi Union's press release suggests that the settlements put the company "back on track for our business goals" - but it is clear that this is a victory for Epson, with the settlement prohibiting the continued sale of certain Epson-compatible Multi Union print cartridges in the United States. The company says it is free to continue the sale of these products in other markets, but it would seem fairly unlikely that Epson would have surrendered the right to take similar court action overseas if it was losing money through infringement of its patents.
Equally though, while Epson may have triumphed in this case, new Chinese manufacturers are well-known for an ability to rise phoenix-like from the ashes of past companies. We wouldn't be too surprised to see other Chinese manufacturers quickly fill the space for the Epson-compatible products that Multi Union is no longer able to sell here. Should that happen, one would expect the whole game to begin anew, with a new round of court cases and allegations.
As we said in our past coverage of this particular case, the problem is caused by the rather unusual business model in the printer market, where inkjet printers are sold for little to no profit (or even potentially, at a loss) - the manufacturer gambling on tying a consumer to their particular brand of inks, which are then sold far above the prices of third-party inks. Part of this price gap comes down to the fact that the original manufacturer's inks are likely to offer better color and print longevity, the result of lengthy and expensive R&D efforts. Equally though, part of the problem relates to the fact that the inks are being used to support the low price of the printers themselves.
What we'd like to see happen is for the business model to change, so that printers are sold at more realistic prices - and the customer is free to choose who to purchase their inks from. That's not likely to happen without major changes to our current laws, though. There is simply to much to gain for manufacturers by offering their printers at impulse-buy prices, and then carefully design their products to ensure that they are the only legal ink supplier for that product.
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Multi Union is pleased to announce that it has agreed to a final settlement with the Seiko Epson Group of the two US Court Actions filed in the District Court of Oregon in 2001 and 2005. In both actions, Seiko Epson alleges infringement of Epson's US patents by certain Multi Union inkjet cartridges on sale within the United States.
The terms of settlement prohibit Multi Union's continued sale of certain Epson compatible inkjet cartridges in the United States. The settlement contains no restriction whatsoever on the sales outside the United States.
The settlement came about after vigorous litigation in which Multi Union challenged Epson's claims for patent infringement. Multi Union was fully prepared for trial of the first-filed case, which was scheduled for September 2005. Multi Union and Seiko Epson were able to settle both cases through mediation, thereby avoiding the huge costs and burden of litigation.
The resolution of this lengthy litigation puts us back on track for our business goals and we are now able to focus on markets of our choice and to step up our quality imaging supplies and superb after-sale services.
Multi Union is very pleased with the results of both the years' long litigation and the amicable settlement that ends the litigation. Further, Multi Union is pleased that the U.S. actions have no impact on Multi Union's business outside the United States.