Amazon and Epson accuse a bunch of traders of selling knockoff print ink

Multiple Marketplace accounts sold fake bottles, cartridges for 2 years+, claim companies

Amazon and printer manufacturer Seiko Epson have filed a joint action against firms in Turkey and the UK which they claim sold counterfeit printer bottles and cartridges on the global online retailer's platform.

A lawsuit [PDF] launched in the US says the traders infringed registered trademarks of Seiko Epson Corporation and Epson America, while joined the lawsuit to "permanently prevent… defendants from causing future harm to Amazon's and Epson's customers, reputations, and intellectual property."

According to the legal documents, filed with the US District Court of Washington in Seattle, in 2023 alone, Amazon invested more than $1.2 billion and employed more than 15,000 people to protect its stores from counterfeits, fraud, and other forms of abuses.

However, some items must have slipped through the net.

The tech companies claim that between August 2021 and January 2024, the traders created 24 selling accounts on Amazon's Marketplace platform to sell "counterfeit Epson products in interstate commerce." The filing names 23 individual defendants but also includes those unknown to the plaintiffs.

The complaint alleges the defendants worked together to advertise, market, distribute, and sell "inauthentic Epson-branded products. Defendants are associated through common business and shipping addresses, public corporate records, removal addresses, financial accounts, and/or phone numbers."

Under the terms of becoming a third-party seller on Amazon, traders must agree to "comply with all applicable laws in [the] performance of its obligations and exercise of its rights," the court docs state.

According to the court documents, after Amazon allegedly verified that the defendants' accounts were selling "counterfeit Epson products," it blocked the accounts, using the rights afforded under the third-party trading agreement.

"Defendants' illegal actions have caused Amazon and Epson to expend significant resources to investigate and combat defendants' wrongdoing and to bring this lawsuit to prevent defendants from inflicting future harm to Amazon, Epson, and their customers," the tech companies say in the complaint.

Examples of products the traders are alleged to have counterfeited include Epson's T522 EcoTank Ink Ultra-high Capacity Bottle Black for select Epson EcoTank printers and Epson 502 EcoTank Ink Ultra-high Capacity Bottle Color Combo Pack Works, according to the plaintiffs.

The two companies bringing the case argued that the selling of counterfeit products "knowingly and willfully used Epson's IP in connection with the advertising, marketing, distributing and selling of counterfeit and infringing Epson products."

As well as alleging trademark counterfeiting and infringement, Amazon and Epson allege false designation of origin and false advertising, breach of contract, and a violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

Amazon and Epson asked the court to block the sellers and their agents from advertising and distributing the bootleg products on Amazon's marketplace, or trying to open seller accounts or helping others to do so. They also asked for the offending products to be impounded and destroyed.

In a press statement, Jilana Miller, assistant general counsel, Epson America, said: "The joint lawsuit with Amazon underscores Epson's ongoing enforcement against infringing sellers of Epson ink cartridges, ink bottles, and other consumables," said. "From obtaining General Exclusion Orders in the ITC, to raids and seizures of counterfeit products and regular enforcement through online marketplaces, Epson employs a broad range of efforts to address patent and trademark infringement in the market."

Kebharu Smith, director of Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit, said: "Amazon has a zero-tolerance policy for counterfeit products and collaborated with the Epson team on this joint lawsuit to have a direct impact on these bad actors and permanently prevent them from selling counterfeits."

Earlier this month, Miami resident Onur Aksoy was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for running a multi-million-dollar operation selling fake Cisco equipment. Aksoy's scheme, which ran from 2014 to 2022, oversaw at least 19 companies in New Jersey and Florida, and had a significant online presence with 15 Amazon accounts and 10 eBay accounts.

In 2021, Amazon's brand protection report said it destroyed more than two million pieces of counterfeit goods last year and denied most would-be sellers from setting up shop in its online marketplace. ®

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