Thursday, March 16, 2006

Insiders Chinese Ink Cartridge Dispute About Section 337: "Weapon of Mass Destruction"

According to Epson (Epson Portland Inc., Epson America Inc., and Seiko Epson Corp.) at least nine of its patents are infringed by 24 companies (13 from the US, five from Hong Kong, three from China, and one each from Macao, Germany and South Korea; see which companies here) that manufacture, import, or distribute aftermarket ink cartridges for resale in the United States. Read more at PR Newswire here.

That's why Epson:
  • has filed a lawsuit at the US District Court of Portland, Oregon against the same companies seeking damages for alleged intellectual property infringements as well as a permanent injunction against such patent infringemenst. It's not clear if Epson will settle some of the cases as they have done in the past, see here;
  • has filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (USITC) to conduct a Section 337 (of the Tariffs Act of 1930) investigation pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1337 and the Administrative Procedure Act, see here.
The primary remedy available in Section 337 investigations is an exclusion order that directs Customs to stop infringing imports from entering the United States. In addition, the Commission may issue cease and desist orders against named importers and other persons engaged in unfair acts that violate Section 337. Expedited relief in the form of temporary exclusion orders and temporary cease and desist orders may also be available in certain exceptional circumstances.

Section 337 specifically declares the infringement of the following statutory rights to be unlawful import practices: a U.S. patent or a U.S. copyright registered under Title 17, a registered trademark, a mask work registered under chapter 9 of Title 17, or a boat hull design protected under chapter 13 of Title 17. 19 U.S.C. paragraph 1337 (a)(1)(B)-(E). In cases involving infringement rights, there is no injury requirement. (source).

Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 is classified to section 1337 of this title, see here or here (pdf).

Section 337 investigations seem pretty effective:

"Last year Chinese enterprises, from floor makers to television makers, were accused of infringing US enterprises' intellectual property rights in eight separate cases. Most completed investigations have resulted in the allegations being proved. Chinese DVD player manufacturers have been involved in intellectual property right infringements, and have started to pay patent fees to a number of well-known foreign companies, including Toshiba, Panasonic, JVC and Matsushita."

Read Jiang Wei's article for the China Daily here.

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