Patent-trolling techniques deployed by printer manufacturing giant Epson have escalated in severity this week with small ink cartridge resellers being informed that due to excessive numbers of takedown notices, their Amazon marketplace accounts have been indefinitely suspended. Resultant loss of sales is expected to lead to business closures.
Epson has long used online platform content removal procedures as a form of privatised patent enforcement. Strict application of notice-and-takedown policies allows Epson to hide behind Amazon and rely on the pure existence of its patent to silence competition. Affected resellers have no opportunity to challenge the removal of their marketplace listings or assert their right to post content. This damages online free speech and unfairly restricts independent small business activity.
Other manufacturers such as Canon have behaved similarly in this market. Affected small businesses have in some cases been forced to lay off employees or close entirely.
Open Rights Group (ORG) calls on Amazon to reinstate and protect these seller accounts. Amy Shepherd, Legal and Policy Officer, said:
“Clumsy takedowns at Amazon are damaging British businesses. Amazon’s decision to suspend seller accounts is disappointing, as it takes Epson’s word that British cartridge resellers are at fault. Epson is using patents to bully small businesses, but if it really believes the patents stand up it should instead take the import companies to court.”
Adrian Meakin, Director of The Ink Squid Ltd, said:
“After 10 years in business we, along with many other long-established sellers, are being forced out of the compatible ink cartridge market by Epson’s actions. Consumers want the option to use third-party cartridges and this freedom of choice is now being taken away.”
Note to editors:
Further information from Open Rights Group on this issue is available at https://inkagain.org.uk