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 France, and Multi-Union Trading, of Hong Kong, infringe on several of its cartridge-related patents.
Seiko Epson filed lawsuits against each of the companies in the US District Court for the District of Oregon in Portland.
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.
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, says Alastair Bourne, a spokesperson for Seiko Epson in Tokyo.
"Lots of companies make ink cartridges [for Epson printers.] If it's fair competition we have no complaints."