Epson uses dubious patent claims to nuke ink sellers' listings from eBay

Originally published at:

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I don’t know what it is now, but the figure I remember from before is $8000/gal


What’s more, it’s targeting sellers, rather than manufacturers, suggesting that it’s not really interested in enforcing its rights, but rather, eliminating its competition.

It also suggests that the manufacturers operate outside of legal range. Most likely China or India or Brazil or something. Those places like to thumb their noses at US Copyright infringement claims. So it’s just easier to go after the eBay sellers.

I am sure this is only one front on their war being waged on competition. I have little doubt they are still working on cracking the legal puzzle of shutting down the manufacturers.


Surprise factor: zero.

The company has been using dodgy patent infringement notices to get its competitors removed from eBay (and other sites), though it won’t say which patents are being violated or how.

From the linked story:

Epson are alleging that certain compatible ink cartridges infringe their patents GB2433473 and amendment GB2465293. The alleged infringement concerns the alignment of chip contacts on their cartridges. So far, we know Epson have issued takedowns against compatible cartridges T16 XL; T18 XL; T24 XL; T26 XL; T27 XL; T29 XL; T33 XL plus T0715 XL; T0797 XL; T0807 XL.

Based upon the above, it appears that the VeRO notices expressly state the patents that are allegedly being infringed by the sellers’ products. So, fake news? Another Cory hit and run?

Further along the linked article:

It is also concerning that Epson opted to act against resellers and did not contact the manufacturers first. If Epson believe that their patents are genuinely being infringed then it would be more efficient and just to take direct legal action in order to prevent import or manufacture of these products at source.

Is this “concerning” as in “concern trolling”? Because I doubt that Epson gives a flying fig what the Open Rights Group thinks of its strategies for taking down infringers.

Further, given the origin of the compatible toner carts (likely China), I sincerely doubt that it would be more efficient to go after these products at the source. I do this stuff for a living, and my experience is that China still pays no more than lip service to anti-counterfeiting law. In contrast, takedowns at the seller level are viable and productive, because one is then dealing with an American company accountable under U.S. law that wishes to maintain its safe harbor and avoid liability.


You know, the moral of the story is to buy a bunch of the cheap ink quickly before it gets taken down.

Of course, I no longer own a printer, because I print so infrequently my printer is broken every time I try and print.

Maybe if these companies made something other than garbage printers, they wouldn’t have to rely on overpriced ink?


Aw, every time there’s one of these printer-company-fuckery stories, I checked mine and was happy it wasn’t Epson doing it. Oh well, all good things must come to an end.

You do realize that ‘cheap printer, hella expensive ink’ is the current business model for many printer companies? It’s almost less expensive to buy a new printer rather than replace ink, especially if your printer is one of the ones that irreparably breaks if you use anything but OEM ink in it.

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Well aware. That is why I said it.

True, but not true. Patents are only valid in the country they are granted. So if Epson didn’t file for a patent in those counties, it waived its chance at recourse in those countries. However, patents allow the holder to prevent importation. And it’s a simpler, cheaper, and faster process than they normal court system. US customs takes care of it from there.

But if these are sold on eBay and shipped from those countries, it’s nigh impossible to block using US Customs without examining every single piece of mail. Back to square 1.

Since patents also gives the owner exclusive right to “offer for sale”, this is what Epson is going after. eBay is probably trying to avoid contributory infringement and is cooperating rather than make a fuss. Legit or not, Epson has found the best choke point possible.


Oh hello welcome to what just happened to me this week. Bought off-brand ink for my Canon Pixma. 3000 rave reviews of this ink on Amazon. A week later, printer has an error code I can’t clear even though there’s a dozen internet videos showing how to fix it. None of them worked. And I’ve got a kid in college so she needs to be able to print.

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It’s a little known fact that printer ink is actually unicorn piss.


Cruising by the printer and ink aisle in Costco yesterday my wife noted that a set of cartridges for an HP inkjet printer was actually priced higher than the printer itself (which didn’t include ink). So, BoingBoingers, can you think of a way to produce permanent hard copy that doesn’t require ink?

Well, there’s toner.

Or dot-matrix, for that matter. Not sure you’d want the EEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEE! EEEEEEEEEEEEE! though. Laser seems to be the best bet in general unless you’re printing photos. Brother makes some very reasonably-priced laser printers that (at least for now) don’t try to screw you over.


No, the moral of the story is never buy anything from companies that use DRM and/or abuse the DMCA. In the case of printers, that means never buy a printer that requires a consumables container that uses a chip.

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For me, the unfortunate thing is that I have a specific need - an optical disc tray for printing on CD/DVD media. Is there anything out there (in the US market at least) other than the Epson Artisan series that doesn’t cost a fortune, and doesn’t nickel-and-dime me with ridiculously expensive ink?

I think I should have been more detailed in the project specifications:

  1. Must not require a 1-time use expendable supply–no ink, toner or dye.
  2. Must not be dependent on cartridge or other mechanism that can be disabled remotely by the manufacturer.
  3. Must not release harmful vapors or particles into the air.
  4. Must be suitable for operation by a total idiot.

That’s a start. . . .

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