As this year’s Paperworld Event draws closer Print-Rite would like to reflect upon the bullying and legally invalid patent infringement claims we faced during last year’s event at Frankfurt, and would like to appeal to like-minded aftermarket players to stand up against such misleading tactics from OEMs. The Paperworld Management also need to shoulder responsibility and control the belligerent and unjust bullying by the ‘patent police’ swarming onto booths and interrupting the exhibitors and visitors.
Respect for Intellectual Property has been one of the core values driving Print-Rite since inception, and we have been the Industry pioneer in developing non infringing solutions for the aftermarket. So it came as a surprise when a swarm of German Customs officials came visiting our Paperworld booth and informed us that one of the OEMs has raised a Design Patent infringement claim regarding a poster we displayed at the booth. We were forced to sign a letter acknowledging that we violated the OEM’s design patent, or our personnel in the booth will have to face charges and arrest. Considering the fact that the Customs has been misled by the OEM and also to ensure that our employees and customers weren’t troubled at the booth, our representative signed the acknowledgment and also paid a security deposit as per their demand. This made the customs official leave our booth. Before leaving they even cut out that part of the poster with the picture of our product which led to the false accusation of design patent infringement.
On receiving information of such a travesty, the patent and legal departments at Print-Rite sprang into action. In a very short time we filed a statement with the German Customs on non-infringement and patent invalidity. We clearly stated the OEM’s claim was legally invalid given the fact that the OEM design in question lacks novelty and so under no circumstances did our poster violate the ‘community design’. In a few days we received a letter from the German customs that the procedure against Print-Rite has been handed over to the Department of Public Prosecution in Frankfurt together with a copy of the submission we filed.
Months later we received notification from German Customs that the OEM will have to file a civil law suit with Civil Courts of Germany, if they want to further prosecute this matter. This meant that all criminal proceedings against us was dropped and the security deposit would be refunded.
Half a year has passed after that notification and the OEM never dared to press for any civil action, as they clearly knew their claim was legally invalid. It clearly shows that their intention was just to intimidate us and bring disrepute to our company and brand. On one hand as a company we are enraged as respect for Intellectual Property and Ethical conduct are ingrained in our corporate culture, and the use of legally invalid claims by OEM to malign our brand and reputation is a travesty. On the other hand as a leader in the aftermarket industry we are concerned by the highhanded bullying tactics by the OEMs using legally invalid claims.
These ‘Patent Police’ who work the show each year, swarm onto booths having had an OEM lawyer raise a complaint, and in our case it was about a poster. There is no discussion, and we have no chance to refute the claim. They act in an aggressive and belligerent manner, even not willing discuss with any management other than the booth manager. They force you to sign a letter acknowledging IP infringement, and also demand money (500 Euro) or else threaten to arrest and take the individual into custody whilst retaining their passport. If this isn’t bullying, what else is. These are tactics meant to embarrass and damage the reputation of companies like ours, through raising issues that doesn’t have any substance or legal validity. But despite the morally and ethically wrong tactics, they win because of the chaos they can inflict when they swarm the booth and stay for up to 2 hours.
We would like to appeal to all non-infringing aftermarket companies to stand up against such bullying tactics by any company who abuses this system, and give them fewer reasons to pursue legally invalid tactics. In our opinion exhibitors should sign a formal letter outlining the issue and demand that Paperworld management stop the swarming of booth without justification, and give exhibitors the opportunity to refute the claims before any actions are initiated. Paperworld Management should also take initiative to openly report through their media outlets and other trade news channels the instances where the aftermarket companies has successfully exposed these invalid tactics, just as in our case.
At the same time we would like to underline the fact that Intellectual Property is a key aspect of our Industry, and all aftermarket players needs to respect IP rights. Through the years Print-Rite has demonstrated the ideal aftermarket business model guided by the core values of Respect for IP and Innovation, which has enabled us to provide innovative non-infringing solutions to the Industry.
This year at Paperworld, our colleague Mr. Joachim Kretschmer will be talking at The Recycler Live on the topic of IP and how it is a key aspect in the hardcopy business. Mr. Kretschmer is the Compliance and Sales Support Manager at PRP Solutions, Germany. He has 29 years of experience in inkjet, electrophotographic and other printing technologies. Before joining Print-Rite he was a Director Research & Development of Pelikan Hardcopy.