Working Towards a Better Future

Much has been said in the pages of RT ImagingWorld magazine about industry associations.  However, the folks in the International Imaging Technology Council (Int’l ITC) continue to talk about it. I thought it important to share some of their thoughts.

Some business owners might say their schedule is demanding enough, thank you very much, and the thought of adding one more commitment to their busy calendar is unbearable. Then there is the added expense, which, while nominal, may prove a burden at a particular moment in time.  So why should they try to cram time into their already-hectic schedules to join an industry association or other professional organization?

Because membership in an industry association offers numerous benefits and will keep business owners on top of important, ever-changing issues, trends and legislation within their marketplace. Many professionals, however, believe the greatest benefit of being a member of an association is the networking and camaraderie that goes on among members.

Some Int’l Imaging Technology Council members have maintained their membership for decades, and others have gone even further and been board members for the same period.  Last month, I wrote about the reasons for membership.  As its executive director, I am in touch with the information and issues that flow through here daily, so my enthusiasm is understandable.

That’s why I am turning the column over to some of my members this month:

Jim Vitelle rtmworld“Being a small company, it’s important to me to be part of an association.  It helps me make sure I am aware of industry trends. The trade shows are great, but they tend to focus on the bigger dealers. I go to them to meet friends and new contacts and hopefully learn and share some ideas. I feel that I make a difference and the association helps validate that. Looking forward to working with the Int’l ITC and a prosperous 2019 for everyone!”­­
­–Jim Vitiello, President, CEO, Datasource, Ink, Illinois, USA

Kirk Peck rtmworld“We belong because of the certification and initial training.  We see some bids now that require that. We also belong because we feel it’s good for the industry to standardize as much as possible and because of all the work you do and your association does to help protect our rights and keep us informed about what’s going on in the industry.”
Kirk Peck, LaserCycle USA, Louisville, USA

Here are thoughts from founding members:

Erwin Pijpers rtmworld Static Control“Static Control is proud to be a member of the inner circle of the Int’l ITC. Static Control has long understood the importance of bringing the industry together to help tackle the issues that remanufacturers face around the globe. As a united group, we can work together to increase the recognition of remanufactured goods from government agencies and private businesses, along with continuing to build the reputation of high-quality thanks to STMC-certified cartridges.”
Erwin Pijpers, Senior Vice President, Static Control Components, North Carolina, USA

Jeff Bendix rtmworld“At the end of the day, if you are not willing to support your own industry, who is?  The I-ITC is the voice for all legitimate cartridge remanufactures around the world.
Jeff Bendix, President/CEO, Bendix Imaging, South Dakota, USA

 

I hope you are inspired to spend some time with industry friends (or competitors), all to help the marketplace better.  No matter where you reside, the Standardized Test Method (STMC) Committee, ASTM F05 Business Imaging Products and your regional trade association are looking for members.  I promise you’ll get more out of it than you put in.

The State of the Union: the International Imaging Technology Council’s Report on the North American Cartridge Remanufacturing Industry and its Trade Association

International Imaging Technology Council rtmworldIt’s been yet another tough year as a member of the North American cartridge remanufacturing industry, but a robust one for imaging supplies dealers overall.  That’s why membership in the Int’l ITC is more important than ever, so the challenges and opportunities can be worked on together.

For more than 20 years, the Int’l ITC has built a reputation for providing its members with accurate and timely information.  From ongoing interviews with National Public Radio to the briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Int’l ITC has given the cartridge remanufacturing industry a voice.

But we’ve also listened. In 2018, for the first time ever and working with Actionable Intelligence, the Int’l ITC did an in-depth survey of the aftermarket.  There are less North American cartridge remanufacturers than ever before, however the ones that remain are, often, thriving.

There are many indications of the strength of the North American imaging supplies industry.  One is money.  Several key industry members have sought strategic financial partners for help in building or rebuilding, and their calls have been swiftly answered.  (The money is not coming from Beijing either.)

When seeking to make financial investments in the industry, the Int’l ITC is often called to give information about industry, and its members, positions.  And the Int’l ITC has been called upon to do that more in the past 18 months than in any other period in its history.

The Int’l Imaging Technology now has a roadmap to help them continue to thrive and be an attractive place to invest, driven by strong communication and a network of outside “friends” in the government, academics and private sector.  The Internet, for example, will be monitored routinely for dubious cartridge sellers and infringing cartridges.  And the OEMs, as Epson proved last month, are willing to strike out against illegitimate sellers on that platform.

So much of the news that affects our marketplace is coming out of China.  The Chinese are manufacturing more and more new-build cartridges.  Ninestar broke ground in October on an “intelligent manufacturing project for laser printers,” an industrial park that measures 9,687,520 square feet, roughly the equivalent of 170 football fields.

The meteoric rise of the Chinese cartridge industry eventually must and will slow.  And just as the North American industry before it, it will consolidate and downsize in numbers.  The development of the Asian marketplace is one to be carefully monitored.  Luckily, with the Int’l ITC’s partnership with RT Media Group, this is happening.

Since the partnership began in 2016, RT Media has provided us with an excellent communications’ platform in its RT ImagingWorld magazine, as well as its online news programs. This has given Int’l ITC an outstanding new membership benefits in its award-winning publication, and has allowed ITC members to take part in major international events, like the global showing of “the Great Debate: Reman versus New-builds” at the global Summit in Zhuhai in October.  The debate, seen by several hundred in attendance, was broadcast via Facebook around the globe and has been watched by more than 1,000 people.

Int’l ITC’s partnership with RT Media allows it to provide relevant stories from the U.S. and Canada, but also gives it access to read about industry news and stories from China, India, South Africa and all corners of the globe.  And it has alternatively provided access to these marketplaces. Times are changing here and over there, and they are changing fast.   From the unique vantage point provided to the Int’l ITC and RT Media, all frontiers are under surveillance.

All this has led to an interesting year.  What has happened? A lot.

The Int’l ITC keeps the OEMs, the Chinese manufacturers and Internet sellers honest.

Recent reports from Germany and the European Toner and Inkjet Remanufacturers Association have found unacceptable levels of the flame retardant decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE) in some Chinese-made new-built cartridges.  Although Static Control recently stated that it has remedied that problem in its cartridges, more DecaBDE has been found in cartridges from other manufacturers. More will undoubtedly be forthcoming on this matter as the Int’l ITC and others scrutinize the findings further.

From responding to bogus quality and environmental claims to defending legitimate aftermarket products to customs officials, the Int’l ITC has helped keep public opinion about remanufactured cartridges positive.  Moreover, it has worked with the OEMs and the major Internet sellers to keep illicit products out of the hands of consumers.

Int’l ITC administers the STMC certification program. Int’l ITC administers the quality testing program that sets apart legitimate remanufacturers from drill-and-fill internet exploiters.  In the U.S., China and around the globe, this is seen as a definitive stamp of a quality cartridge.

STMC must now grow and change with the times as well.  Under the direction of newly-minted STMC Chairman Mike Josiah (Editor: see the 5 Questions interview with Mike Josiah on page XX), the committee hopes to reinvigorate and find new methods to employ.  Standardized tests for ink jet and color are both available, and could soon be reduced to a new testing protocol.  STMC is the cartridge sales of quality, and it will become more important than ever as more cartridges employ “workarounds” or other fixes to patent challenges and technological impediments.

Reman Day! As a founding member of the Council that brought this day to life, Int’l ITC enthusiastically aided its members that took part.  And those that did saw consumers and business customers respond to the event.  It was the first time ever that the remanufacturing industries, from airplanes to inkjet cartridges, came together to promote their members and products.  John Deere, the heavy equipment behemoth, led the way with events hosted around the globe.  The automotive sector had events from coast to coast, and in faraway lands like Romania.

The cartridge clan boasted events from Brooklyn to Cairo.  It isn’t just a day to wave a flag. Beneath the fanfare is a real coalition of associations, including the Int’l ITC, that is pushing both public and private sector to buy more remanufactured products, and putting real qualitative science behind those efforts.

What if John Deere, Boeing and Ford’s offices decided to BUY more remanufactured products in addition to selling the ones they produce?  That’s more than a half million people! This year, Reman Day will be an even bigger event, as the gathering of remanufacturers in Rochester that drive the event, held last September, was twice the size of the same event in 2017.  The event, and remanufacturing as a sales concept, has momentum.

But we could do more! A strong Int’l ITC creates more opportunities for its members.  Because of Reman Day and its council, we are working closely with several other remanufacturing associations, and looking for ways to capitalize on our joint efforts in the areas of advocacy, social media and even meetings.

We have more on the agenda for 2019.  We hope to once again be able to hold a regional meeting or two to set goals for the future.  We plan on working with our sister associations to capitalize on their programs, and look for more ways to grow our programs and our membership.

What can the Int’l ITC do for you? Let us know at tricia@i-itc.org.

Killer Chips? Weigh In Please

Since the early days of Lexmark’s prebate program, the killer chip has been frustrating remanufacturers and consumers. Hear what Tricia Judge has to say on the benefits and non-benefits of the killer chip in the industry. 

 

The “killer chip” has once again reared its ugly head. And this time, Epson’s employing them on their inkjet cartridges. This is a common impediment and one easily addressed technically, but legally, it can truly be a killer. The killer chips never left the industry. Since the early days of Lexmark’s Prebate program, the killer chip has been frustrating remanufacturers and consumers.

Sometimes they are introduced on cartridges and become instantly problematic. Other times, they lay in wait for a change in firmware to awaken them so they can turn off machines using aftermarket cartridges. The chips are intrinsically dastardly, because they can be employed simultaneously for good and evil. They can monitor an important business-related feature, such as page yield or ink levels.

But then the same chip can turn off the machine when it reaches a pre-set number of pages or level of ink, regardless of whether there is still ink present in the tank or if it has been completely refilled. The chips also don’t know or care about the right to repair. When used—or reused—on a perfectly legal remanufactured cartridge, they can still send a signal to shut down the cartridge. That makes them the scourge of the industry, and of customers.

The chip that causes the current problems is on the Epson circuit board. For earlier Epson models, the chip, which counts the number of copies printed, could be reset. On the more recent models, it cannot be reset. Both Apex and Static Control Components have been able to produce a compatible chip that functions the same as a new or reset chip. When placed on a recycled circuit board on a remanufactured cartridge, the resulting product constitutes permissible repair.

The problem is that each time there is an update to the Epson firmware, it deactivates the Apex and SCC compatible chips, rendering the legitimate aftermarket remanufactured cartridge inoperable. Once again, an OEM is flagrantly circumventing the patent exhaustion/right to repair doctrine by placing obstacles in the way of legitimate remanufacturing.

No doubt, Epson claims its firmware also has legitimate business purposes. However, the outcome is just the same: frustrated remanufacturers and furious customers. For decades, the remanufacturing industry has been dealing with chips of all kinds.

There were the Dallas semi-conductor chips that Lexmark used to enforce its Prebate terms. If a Prebate cartridge was remanufactured and replaced in the printer, the chip shut down the printer and displayed a message stating, “invalid refill.” Other chips used by OEMs included RFID chips that kept the discussion going between the printer and the cartridge long after it was necessary for the purposes it claims for inclusion in the product.

Some chips, such as those employed by HP, have not interfered with cartridge functionality, and have only served to enhance the performance of the printer and cartridge. However, if these chips are not reset or replaced in the remanufacturing process, the cartridge could no longer share important information with the printer, such as toner levels. And, of course, replacement chips were not immediately and readily available.

The Consumer Strikes Back

Therefore, the consumer is left guessing, for instance, how much toner is left in the cartridge, and frustrated because his “gas gauge” no longer indicates the toner level. In his mind, the consumer now equates remanufactured cartridges with inferior ones with diminished features.

Consumers may be duped by the chips but they are not without recourse. The class action lawsuit was designed to bring together like-minded, aggrieved people who desire to set right a wrong. Decades ago, a class action was brought against Lexmark by consumers over its prebate program and the “enforcement” chips.

In 2010, in Kent v. Hewlett-Packard Co., HP agreed to settle a class action claiming that not only do “smart chips” embedded in HP printers not live up to their performance-boosting promises but actually end up costing consumers extra money to operate. Other plaintiffs named Blennis, Rich and more recently, San Miguel, have brought class action suits against HP over its printers and have compelled the leading OEM to pay many millions to consumers.

In these cases, the customers proclaimed that they were fed up with firmware that shut down their printers. They argued successfully that chips that monitored their page yield or ink levels left them with cartridges still full of toner or ink, and therefore they were injured financially when they could not finish printing until the cartridge’s real end-of-life.

Eventually, the Government Strikes Back?

The OEMs’ behavior has two key ultimate intentions: To make sure the consumer buys a replacement cartridge from whom they dictate, when they dictate. The former outcome is anti-competitive. The latter is prematurely condemning the cartridge to an early trip to the landfill.

In passing the “Hamon Law,” in 2014, France became the first country in the world to consider sanctioning OEMs for the widespread manufacturing practice of “planned obsolescence,” –or creating products designed to fail so that consumers will be compelled to replace them earlier than they would otherwise.

Specifically, the legislation outlaws “the use of techniques whereby the person responsible for placing a product on the market deliberately aims to reduce its lifetime in order to increase the replacement rate.” To be clear, the law does not compel OEMs to affirm that its products will last for a set length of time. Instead, the law requires them to be forthright or transparent in communicating its expected lifespan.

(The new law also introduced the availability of class action lawsuits to this law under French civil procedure, which was not available until 2014.) The new law was recently invoked in a case filed near Paris against four printer OEMs: Epson, HP, Canon and Brother. The case was brought by a consumer group called Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée (HOP), or End Planned Obsolescence.

HOP, founded in 2015 to battle against the concept of planned manufacturing obsolescence, decided to be the first to test the new law. “For decades,” HOP states on its website, “manufacturers have voluntarily decided to shorten the life of products and force us to buy new ones…Our goal: To extend the life of our products and promote alternative economic models around sustainable products, reuse, repair and recycling.”

The suit charges that the companies’ printers falsely show various components “at the end of their life” and ink cartridges empty when they still have ink. The printer companies face modest fines of €15,000 but the loss will expose the OEMs to negative publicity. And in the face of the ever-growing support of the circular economy, especially in Europe, the OEMs will look very backward indeed.

Gunning For Free Speech

Tricia Judge block’s the planned release of 3-D printed gun blueprints in the US. The internet is unforgiving, once the information is published it’s out there, says Judge.

3D printing came center stage this summer in the United States with the release of 3-D printed gun blueprints on the Internet. Every major news affiliate carried the story and raised warnings. The guns, printed in plastic, are touted as “ghost” guns because they are untraceable.

In late July, a U.S. judge blocked the planned release of 3-D printed gun blueprints hours before they were set to hit the Internet, siding with states that sued to halt publication of designs to make weapons that also are undetectable through security screening.

The issues arising from this new technology have rocked the legal community. First, gun control and gun-related issues have always been the purview of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which sets forth a right to bear arms. However, the new blueprints for plastic guns, and their publication, are controlled by the First Amendment, which regulates a free press.

The issue is now about the right to pass on information to a global community. The Internet is unforgiving. Once that information is published, it’s out there. And the Texas-based company that designed these blueprints has already released them. That’s what has gun control advocates and all levels of government security officials up in, well, arms.

Eight states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against the federal government, arguing it acted arbitrarily in reaching an undisclosed settlement with the company in June. The states said online blueprints would allow criminals easy access to weapons. They said the Trump administration had failed to explain why it settled the case and that its decision violated their ability to regulate firearms and keep citizens safe.

Some of the files include 3-D printable blueprints for components that would go into the making of a version of the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, a weapon that has been used in many U.S. mass shootings.

Ironically, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the sworn advocate of gun ownership, denounced the new weapons. “Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the Internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years,” Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.

The irony is that the new plastic guns, while still far less efficient and far more expensive than manufactured ones, could eventually take market share away from the major gun OEMs, who are the lifeblood of the NRA. There are also laws against the guns in place. Under the U.S. Undetectable Firearms Act any firearm that cannot be detected by a metal detector is illegal to manufacture, such designs for firearms require a metal plate to be inserted into the printed body.

While the printed guns got a lot of media attention, some analysts are shaking their heads. 3D printers capable of producing these guns have not saturated the market. Although more market penetration is anticipated, there are only roughly 6000 machines available that would work.

With more than 300 million non-military firearms on the streets in the U.S., their production would hardly make a dent. Therefore, it will take years for the printable gun industry to gain efficiency and mass productivity. By then, U.S. laws will have hopefully caught up.

Outside of the U.S., the guns are illegal in a variety of countries where gun regulations are in place, such as the United Kingdom and Australia. In Japan in 2014, Yoshitomo Imura was the first person to be arrested for possessing printed guns. After posting 3D gun plans on the Internet, Imura’s home was raided by authorities. He was found with five guns, only two of which were capable of being fired, but he had no ammunition.

OEM Trademark Usage Leads to US Seizures of Products

OEM Trademark Usage Leads to US Seizures of Products. Hear what Tricia Judge has to say.

 

The automotive aftermarket has set several precedents that have been used by the imaging supplies aftermarket (and many others) to further the cause of overall remanufacturing.  Conversely, they celebrate and employ precedents set by the imaging supplies aftermarket as well. In the past five leading cases in the U.S., the Int’l ITC has filed joint briefs with the automotive aftermarket to further enhance our power and demonstrate the commonality of our goals.

Yet another interesting case has cropped up that deserves watching by all aftermarkets. The main player in the case is automotive mega remanufacturer LKQ.  LKQ was initially formed in 1998 through a combination of several similar recycling businesses located in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. It expanded through internal development and more than 220 acquisitions of aftermarket, recycled, refurbished, and remanufactured product suppliers and manufacturers.

In February, LKQ filed a suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in particular its Customs and Border Patrol agency (CBP), for illegally seizing its automotive grilles.  CBP claims these grilles are counterfeit or violate the OEMs’ trademarks, in defiance of the Tariff Act of 1930.

LKQ argues that there is no way that either of these claims are valid.  “Generally, these trademarks, as applied against LKQ, purport to cover the shape of the grilles themselves,” the complaint reads. “However, LKQ’s Repair Grilles cannot violate the OEM’s trademark rights (a prerequisite for seizures under the Tariff Act) because they are authorized under the long-standing and well-established trademark doctrines of functionality and repair.

Further, in many instances, LKQ’s Repair Grilles are expressly licensed by the OEMs. Finally, LKQ’s Repair Grilles are not likely to cause confusion amongst purchasers or the relevant public.”

LKQ outlined a host of seizures, and decried CBP’s actions as a “campaign” that favors a monopoly for the OEMs. “Beginning in April 2017, CBP began its campaign—which continues through to the present day—of erroneously applying the Tariff Act to Repair Grilles being imported by LKQ (the ‘CBP-Automakers Grille Monopoly Campaign’),” the complaint reads. “The CBP-Automakers Grille Monopoly Campaign has since resulted in more than 165 unlawful seizures of LKQ’s Repair Grilles intended for delivery to LKQ’s customers.

These seizures are listed at Exhibit A, attached hereto (each, a “Case,” and collectively, the “Cases”), and have resulted in the unlawful detention, seizure, and threatened forfeiture of thousands of LKQ’s products embodying hundreds of different grille designs.”  Most seizures occurred at the Port of Savannah, Georgia, but others occurred in the ports of Long Beach, California, and International Falls, Minnesota.

Since the seizures have begun, LKQ claims, it has submitted 81 petitions seeking the release of its goods, and has met personally with CBP attorneys. “In each petition, LKQ requested that CBP: (1) determine that LKQ’s Repair Grilles are not counterfeit as a matter of law, but, rather, that they are lawful replacement parts; and (2) release the seized Repair Grilles,” the complaint reads.

“LKQ argued that its grilles were not counterfeit as they were authorized by law under the functionality and repair doctrines, they were authorized by the Automaker under confidential licenses, and/or they were not virtually indistinguishable from the registered and recorded trademark relied upon by CBP as the basis for its seizure.

LKQ’s petitions were fully supported by two nationally-recognized trademark experts: Professors Mark P. McKenna, of the University of Notre Dame Law School, and David J. Franklyn, of the University of San Francisco School of Law. Professors McKenna and Franklyn submitted sworn declarations that, in their opinion, LKQ’s Repair Grilles were non-infringing and the asserted trademarks could not be asserted against the aftermarket repair parts market.

After making herculean efforts to get its products released, the CBP remained steadfast in its position, leaving LKQ no option but legal recourse.  Despite LKQ’s many attempts to explain the lawfulness of its Repair Grilles, CBP continued (and continues) to seize LKQ’s Repair Grilles.

“As months went by without any ruling on LKQ’s petitions, and with seizures continuing to mount, it became clear to LKQ that CBP believed it had unfettered discretion to rule on the petitions at its leisure, having no duty or obligation to resolve the issue forthwith or without delay.”

The case involves the trademarks of all the major automotive OEMs, who are enjoying the benefits of CBP’s activities, despite taking no action themselves. “LKQ has contacted each of the Automakers to request that the Automaker provide written consent to CBP for LKQ to import the lawful Repair Grilles,” the complaint reads. “However, only BMW— recognizing the legality of LKQ’s Repair Grilles—has provided written consent to CBP.

Despite never bringing (or even threatening) legal action themselves, each of the other Automakers has refused to provide said consent despite full awareness of the legality of LKQ’s activities under the law. In fact, in each of CBP’s final agency actions denying LKQ’s petitions, CBP has stated that they have consulted with the Automakers corresponding to each of the Cases and that in each Case, the Automakers have claimed that ‘the protected marks were not authorized to be applied to the merchandise in question.’

On information and belief, the Automakers have been complicit in the CBP-Automakers Grille Monopoly Campaign by misleading CBP as to the legality of LKQ’s products; and with regards to Ford and Chrysler, they have further misled CBP as to the scope of the confidential design patent license agreements between LKQ and Ford and Chrysler.”

The OEMs in other markets are most certainly watching. The imaging supplies aftermarket has had concerns about the use of OEM marks for decades. And with the number of products being imported, again, this case will have applicability. Stay tuned.

#Me too

She was a dynamic 26-year-old, working her way through graduate school in the U.S. Midwest of the 1980s. Her life requirements and course load necessitated a flexible night job, which She found at a start-up mail-order house for computer supplies. Located only blocks from her school, She would be entering orders into a computer through the evening hours.

The owner of the new company shared the small office with Her and the other two order entry clerks, and the banter between the four was fun and lively. But one night, the other two clerks were gone, moved to another office way down the hall. A few weeks later, after an unexpected raise and praise for her work, the owner asked for sex. Then insisted on it.  She deflected. She joked.

She finally said, “no!”

Infuriated, the owner told her that her job depended on it. She held her ground. So he called in another employee and had sex with her on the desk behind where She input orders all night. This scene replayed for many additional nights, before She finally quit, and moved on to a lesser job in a more remote neighborhood.

She is me.  #metoo.

In 2017, the way women and men worked together was addressed out loud. The “#Metoo” movement ripped the lid off the dark side of the social dynamic between men of power and women trying to achieve some.

The movement started in Hollywood, which always receives an inordinate amount of attention, and where men have abused women via the “casting couch” for ages.  It spread quickly and soon social media was alive with the cries of “me too.”  It ended the careers of many high-profile men, and brought sexual harassment in the workplace to the forefront.

How pervasive is the problem? In January, a nonprofit called “Stop Street Harassment” announced the results of an online survey. It found that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime.

The results show that 77 percent of women have experienced verbal sexual harassment, and 51 percent have been sexually touched without their permission. About 41 percent said they have been sexually harassed online, and 27 percent said they had survived sexual assault.

The Imaging Industry has Skeletons in Its Closet

In June 2012, well-known MPS Consultant Greg Walters called out the industry for its treatment of women.

“In or around, I really do not remember, 2009, I started sprinkling (quite literally) pictures of scantily clad, young women into my posts. I am not ashamed of any one of the pictures I posted, MY intent was clear,” he wrote.

“The reasons for the images were: Spice up the site – why does this industry need to project such a boring image?  Get the blood rolling – passion is human.  And the most important reason: – I liked the pictures.  Period.”

Walters was then contacted by a deeply upset woman executive at Ricoh, who felt that Walters’ images demeaned women. He realized she was right. “So I pulled all 800 pictures down.  Then I wrote about it.  The industry never writes about it, even though the problem is rampant in the dealer channel.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “There is a good-old-boys network in the industry, and they have no motivation to change.”

Unlike Hollywood or other large industries, the stories of pressure and harassment don’t make the news.  There are no journalists to expose the stories.   “All the women have to take it, and deal with it,” Walters said.

His fury from six years ago remains within him and is posted on his website to this day.  “This type of activity is rampant in our little industry,” his blog reads.  “AND YOU KNOW I’M RIGHT.

“This is about men in the Copier, Imaging and MPS industry, OUR INDUSTRY,  leveraging authority over women as a means to have sex.  And loosely associated, but not that far behind, is the influence and pure unprofessional attitude that somehow a female sales person is expected to tolerate unwanted pawing from a male prospect or client.  Guys who act this way are (expletive deleted.)”

Keep Your Company On the Right Side of the Movement

This is happening in the industry.  Think it isn’t happening in your company? The numbers above indicate that it is, or has, but most definitely will and could.  Therefore, please consider what the experts (and I) suggest one should do if they are harassed, witness harassment or run the company where an episode could or has occurred.

If you feel you have experienced sexual harassment:

 

  1. Take immediate notes on the harassment and be specific in your details — note the time and place of each incident, what was said and done, and who witnessed the actions. Also, consider documenting your own work productivity while the incident(s) occurred or after. Nothing is too small or trivial to document. If it’s an ongoing problem, keep a journal with detailed information on instances of sexual harassment. Note the dates, conversation, frequency of offensive encounters, etc. Photograph or keep copies of any offensive material at the workplace.

 

  1. Consult your employee handbook or policies. If your employer has a sexual harassment policy in place, follow it. Put complaints in writing. Obtain copies of your work records (including performance evaluations) and keep these copies at home.  If you feel comfortable, tell your supervisor about the behavior and the steps you have taken to address it. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with your supervisor directly, report the behavior to the human resources department or the person responsible for workplace complaints. And ultimately, you have the option of contacting the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

 

  1. Tell other people, including personal friends and co-workers if you feel safe doing so. Confide in your family, friends, and even safe coworkers for another reason:   Experiencing sexual harassment is traumatic; you’ll need your support system in place to validate your experiences and to bolster you, regardless of whether or not you take further action.

If you witnessed the episode, and especially if you are a male co-worker:

 

  1. Make a record of the incident, and if possible, react. Document the behavior so that if you report things to a superior or Human Resources, you have facts to discuss, and aren’t left vaguely describing a “creepy” episode. If possible, take the risk of saying “that’s gross” or “I’m not OK with this.” If you’re uncomfortable with how someone else is treated, you’re not just standing for their rights, you’re standing for your own. And a sexual harasser will have a harder time dismissing a complaint backed by a third party, especially another man’s.

 

  1. Consult with the victim. Catch up with her when she’s alone, and call out the awkward behavior. Ask if she’s okay, and be prepared for her to gloss over or diminish the moment. Everything in our society is geared toward a woman saying, “Oh, I’m fine.” She’s probably wishing it away or doesn’t want to rock the boat. But you’ve already helped by bearing witness to the scenario and checking in to make sure she’s comfortable.  If you are ready to go further, ask if they’re comfortable with you reporting the harassment, and how they’d feel most comfortable: if you use their name or not, or if they want to report together, with you as a witness.

 

 

  1. Talk to the harasser afterwards. This one’s a little tougher because the stakes are higher. If you have the right relationship with this individual, as a peer perhaps, you can provide some guidance.

One thing is for certain, if you witness it and remain silent, then you are contributing to the negative environment.

If you are the Owner/Manager of the Company:

While a male co-worker may engage in these activities, management and owners, once aware of the harassment, must take action. Management of companies of those accused in the “#metoo” movement moved swiftly to remove them.  So must those in charge of smaller companies, no matter how valuable the accused.

Consider these factors that increase owner vulnerability in a sexual harassment scenario:

Position and Power. You are in charge, so you have all the power to change the environment, and stave off a lawsuit.

Extent of Involvement:  If you are taking part in the bad behavior, or leading it, your business is in real jeopardy. If you know and do nothing, it is almost as bad as being the perpetrator.

Perception of Affluence: The deeper your pockets, the more vulnerable you are.

The Number of Employees and the Number of People Involved: In this situation, less is better.

There are dozens of online websites that give advice on initiating anti-harassment programs.  Find one that fits your company and implement it tomorrow. Let every employee and new hire know that sexual harassment is grounds for immediate dismissal. Undertake sensitivity training.  Bring in a consultant or trainer. Whatever you do, do NOT do nothing. This is the one time where something bad just won’t go away on its own.

Some of the largest verdicts awarded in the past decade have been in this arena. So once this legal issue enters your business, show it the door immediately.

 

Imaging Supplies Choices: New Builds Threaten to take Reman’s Share

In the printer cartridge remanufacturing heyday of the 1990-2000s, it was so easy to promote remanufactured cartridges. The cartridges were the only alternative to new, therefore keeping costs low. Since the cartridges were reused at least once, remanufacturers diverted a significant amout of plastic from landfills. And remanufacturers were small, local businesses, with cartridge return programs were often tied to charities.

No one disputed that the key benefit was the cost savings over new original equipment manufacturers’ (OEM) cartridges. The industry competed openly and fairly with the OEMs, with fights over killer chips, return programs and other marketing and technological impediments that the OEMs implemented.

On the fringe of the marketplace were the illegal counterfeit cartridges. The OEMs, through the Imaging Supplies Coalition, hunted down the criminals that trafficked in these supplies. Asia, particularly China, was a key source for these illicit products.

The landscape changed dramatically with a new player: the new-built cartridge. These cartridges gave birth to a huge industry in China. Considerably cheaper than remanufactured ones, new-builds have proliferated and stolen market share from OEMs and remanufacturers alike. The once robust remanufacturing marketplace of the late 90s accounted for as much as $8 billion in North American sales.

Now, a new study undertaken by the Actionable Intelligence and the International Imaging Technology Council believe that the remanufactured cartridges account for only $2 billion in sales. In some models, new-builds have taken 50% share away from remanufacturers.

The internet has exacerbated the problem. These cartridges, many of questionable quality and legality, have proliferated online sites like Amazon and eBay. They are also showing up in the reseller channels with assurances that they are of excellent quality and do not infringe the intellectual property of the OEMs.

With their massive patent portfolios, the OEMs were expected to confront these cartridges with patent-infringement suits. Epson, HP, Lexmark and others did bring suits, and some imports were blocked. However, even more new-built cartridges made their way into the country, with no opposition from Canon, the key holder of laser cartridge patent technology.

Legal Concerns

The right to repair doctrine has long protected remanufactured cartridges from claims of patent infringement. The consumer has a right to repair his car, computer and cartridge. The issue was well-settled in the mid 1990s in a variety of U.S. lawsuits.

The printer OEMs tried a variety of clever marketing schemes to dissuade consumers from buying aftermarket products, particularly through post-sale restrictions using their intellectual property. This gave rise to a variety of lawsuits as well.

In 2017, the cartridge remanufacturing industry presented the U.S. Supreme Court with the case that would change patent law dramatically. On May 30, 2017, the US Supreme Court decided that patent rights on products were exhausted after the first sale, whether domestically or overseas. The decision in Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., written by Chief Justice Roberts, specifically involved the sale of printer cartridges.

As a result, cores and cartridges can be freely remanufactured and moved across borders, at least in the U.S. While remanufactured cartridges have had legal clouds lifted, some ominous ones loom on the horizon for new-built cartridges.

Canon, the largest patent holder of all the OEMs and the primary holder of the patents to laser cartridge technology, has now taken action to further protect its intellectual property. On February 28, it sued aftermarket manufacturers and distributors of new-built cartridges.

Canon had sued manufacturers and distributors of new-built cartridges over one drum-related gear. Ambitious aftermarket manufacturers developed patent workarounds of the gear, which the new-built cartridge makers openly promoted.

This time, Canon has used a continuation application to reach back and erase the patent work-arounds introduced by these manufacturers. Using this technique, Canon may be able to call into question all attempts to circumvent Canon’s patents on the dongle gear, now and in the future. So are any cartridges safe? Yes: some remanufactured ones.

So as it was before the arrival of the new-built cartridges, it appears remanufactured cartridges, with reused OEM gears, may once again be the only legitimate competition for new OEM ones. And as workarounds continue to appear, we expect Canon to continue to sue to question them.

Quality

The remanufactured cartridge is based on the reuse of the OEM core, or cartridge shell. New-built cartridges have cores that are newly-molded plastics. “New molds use inferior grade plastics that don’t come close to the durability or integrity of OEM plastics,” said Luke Goldberg, executive vice president of global sales and marketing for Clover Imaging Group. “There are big variances in quality in new-built cartridges from a fresh mold and cartridges produced once the mold is aging. Molds may be used well beyond their intended duty cycles and mold waste is reintroduced into process.

“Because of this issue in mold tolerances, the integrity of critical cartridge gaps is nearly impossible to maintain. The most critical gaps are those between the mag/developer roller and the doctor blade and the PCR and OPC. Even a .00010 (ten thousand of inch) variance can create print quality issues. You can see any of the following issues as a byproduct of inferior plastics: uneven print left to right, banding in grey scales, inconsistent graphics, and backgrounding.”

Beyond the cartridge shell, there are important technologies within the components that the domestic market took decades to command, and then there are the chips and other highly-technical components. A $3 cartridge can’t possibly address all these issues with the requisite quality, nor can it have all the patent-avoiding vetting necessary to be “IP-free.”

“How is it possible to work around OEM patents and provide quality products while at the same time continuing to lower prices?” Goldberg asks. “Can you offer a ‘patent-free,’ quality product for $2.95? I would venture to say that it’s highly unlikely. “

In researching new-built cartridges that have come under scrutiny by one OEM, I found a negative review for the product on Amazon in which the buyer said, “the cartridge didn’t even fit in my printer, let alone function!” Consumers eventually do grasp that you only get what you pay for.

Environmental benefits

The environmental benefits of a remanufactured cartridge are the same now as they were 20 years ago. Customers, especially large corporate ones, prefer environmentally-friendly products. Clover Imaging Group, the world’s largest cartridge remanufacturer, openly touts its products environmental benefits.

“Clover Imaging Group’s remanufactured cartridges consume less materials and natural resources, demand less energy, and ultimately have a smaller total environmental impact than new-built cartridges,” Goldberg said. “Also, we rarely see new-built cartridge producers offering reverse logistics for core pickup, much less remanufacturing or recycling, meaning that NBCs usually either find their way into a waste stream or are collected by someone else who must try to responsibly recycle or dispose of them.”

Conclusion

The once-robust cartridge remanufacturing industry is still hanging tough. And numerous challenges, such as overproduction, has slowed the tidal wave of new builts that have arrived in the U.S. The new administration has also placed China and its questionable trade practices in its sights. So remanufactured cartridges are down, but they are not out.

How to know you’re buying remanufactured cartridges? Buy Office Depot, Quill or other private label brands. Or contact me.

Election and Business Results Are In

At his time of year, we are all looking ahead at the New Year. What political and business trends will affect your business? I have some thoughts on how this will unfold in the United States.

U.S Politics

Chinese manufacturers may face new obstacles. With a resounding win by the Democratic Party, the U.S. House of Representatives will now be at odds with the president and the senate. Therefore, U.S. President Donald Trump’s hope of a “beautiful bipartisan sort of situation” following the Democratic Party regaining control of the House of Representatives is unlikely to become reality. His presidency has been a rancorous one. Democrats smarting from two years of being locked out of power entirely are unlikely to back any of his efforts, particularly his border wall.

This will frustrate Trump’s agenda in many instances, and make his tweets far more colorful. However, a Democrat-controlled House may find itself aligning with—and even supporting—Trump in surprising ways, even if the bipartisanship is not quite as benign as he envisions. In both cases, the ramifications will extend beyond U.S. borders, and be felt particularly in China. 

No matter which party controls either the house or the senate, the president retains sweeping powers to shape foreign policy. However, Congress can exert pressure using its committees, its prerogative to approve trade deals and overall general influence. In the case of China, many Democrats agree with the president. Frustration with Chinese trade practices is not solely a Republican issue. As a matter of fact, the Republican Party usually favors free, unobstructed trade. Here, President Trump is actually going against the standard party line.

After all, the Trump administration has built on its Democrat predecessor’s moves to block Chinese acquisitions of American companies. And many Democrats have called for more confrontational policies with China. If Trump’s raising the stakes on trade with China gains the backing of a Democratic House, making it a truly bipartisan policy shift, the consequences for global trade and strategic competition between the U.S. and China could be significant.

There were glimmers of hope for a reduction of tariffs and a calming of the trade war between the U.S. and China at the 2018 G20 Summit in Buenos Aires. Since then, however, President Trump seems to be returning to his course of “America First.”

Trump wants that wall built. It is the symbol of his signature campaign issue: immigration. Now he needs help from the Democrats to make that happen. Blue-collar job retention is near to the heart of Democrats, and trade policy is one place that they can work together. China’s trade problems with the U.S. may now actually heat up.

Given the US’ economic and strategic dominance, its domestic politics have always had a bearing on other countries. However, the disruption Trump has caused has heightened this considerably. An unhappy and obstreperous Trump spells trouble for everyone. He 

will be unhappy as impeachment and other criminal charges become more possible. This will not be the year of a quieter, gentler U.S., at least in its politics.

U.S. Business

Nor will the OEMs be less combative. Several studies have arisen from Europe, North America and Australia questioning the health and safety of new-built cartridges. However, as expected, at least one OEM is saying that all aftermarket cartridges pose a health and safety risk.

In 2019, the aftermarket, and all of its components, had better be prepared to respond to these challenges from the OEMs. Furthermore, any truth to the studies needs to be borne out and addressed.

The silver lining? This is a good opportunity for remanufacturers to separate themselves from new-built cartridges. Remanufactured cartridges will also get a boost from Reman Day on April 11. It’s a good time to let your business’ reman side shine.

Canon’s Latest Dongle Gear Actions: Canon’s Checkmate

  • Canon has sued manufacturers and distributors of new-built cartridges again.
  • This time, Canon has reached back to erase the patent work-arounds introduced by these manufacturers.
  • So are any cartridges safe? Yes: remanufactured ones.

On February 28, Canon brought its latest patent enforcement efforts against 49 aftermarket manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of new build compatible cartridges. These actions have been brought in U.S. district courts, and before the U.S. International Trade Commision (USITC). Although the lawsuit has been analyzed by many, no one has yet discussed what it means for the aftermarket going forward. 

After anazlyzing the patents that are the subject of the suit, along with the actions Canon has brought before these actions, aftermarket suppliers of new-built cartridges may have serious legal and technical impediments for future manufacturing of Canon cartridges equipped with a dongle gear drive mechanism.

Who are the big winners?  Remanufacturers that are able to reuse the OEM gear and dongle.

All the patents in the first action brought by Canon over the dongle gear (“Dongle Gear I”) required a coupling member that was “tiltable” with respect to the OPC drum.  As shown in Image 1 taken from Canon’s patents, when a cartridge with a “tiltable” dongle is inserted into the printer, the dongle (15150) moves from a tilted position (top left drawing “a”) to a straight position (bottom right drawing “d”) relative to the OPC drum (107) as it engages with the printer drive pin (180).

 When the cartridge is removed, the reverse occurs and the dongle tilts out of alignment with the OPC drum.  This tilting allows cartridges with an OEM style tilting coupling member to be smoothly engaged and disengaged from the printer drive system.

The Dongle Gear I litigation targeted copycats of the tilting dongle OEM design.  In response to Dongle Gear I, the new-build cartridge manufacturers began coming up with “non-tilting” dongle gear replacements.  Ninestar, Aster, Print-Rite, and Static Control Components all came up with variations on a retractable dongle design.  In these designs, the dongle remains in line with the OPC drum, but is moveable in and out of the drum, somewhat like the plunger in a syringe. 

The images below are taken from a Print-Rite patent and illustrate how these retractable dongle designs work.  In these designs, the dongle is moveable in and out of the drum gear in the directions of the red arrow.  As shown in the bottom three images and starting on the left, the cartridge is inserted into the printer in the direction of the arrow y, then the dongle engages the printer drive pin and is pushed into the drum gear in the direction of the arrow x (bottom middle image). 

When the cartridge is fully inserted, a spring (top figure) pushes the dongle in the direction of the arrow z (bottom right image) and into engagement with the printer drive pin.  While the Print-Rite and Static Control designs rely on contact with printer components and a spring to move the dongle in and out of the gear, the designs from Ninestar and Aster use systems of gears and/or levers to move the dongle in and out of the gear.

Developing the new workarounds was not a seamless transition. Early versions of the designs faced many issues, most notably difficulty inserting and removing the cartridge from the printer.  In some cases cartridges would get stuck so badly hand tools were required to extract them. 

Nonetheless, in the time it took the ITC and U.S. Federal Courts to hand Canon its victory, the aftermarket suppliers had refined their non-tilting dongles and had begun successfully importing and selling compatible cartridges equipped with these designs.  Canon was well aware of this development as  settlement documents from the litigation and press releases from some of the aftermarket suppliers all referenced the non-tilting dongle replacements.

But Canon was not defeated, as its next and latest move was, perhaps, its checkmate. As the aftermarket had shown its hand, Canon began filing “continuation” patents specifically targeting the non-tilting dongle designs.  Although filed with the patent office after the aftermarket designs were released, these continuation patents are treated as though they were filed in 2006 – when Canon first filed for protection on the dongle gear design. 

There was no prior art for the non-tilting dongles that dated back that far.  And it’s a well-settled rule of patent law that a patent holder can file a continuation application claiming its invention in a slightly different way.

In targeting the non-tilting design, Canon’s new patents focus on the fact that in both the tilting and retractable dongle design, the tip of the dongle moves between two positions, one where the tip is closer to the OPC drum and another where the tip is farther from the OPC.  In both instances, the tip is closer to the OPC drum when the dongle is disengaged from the printer drive, and farther from the OPC drum when the dongle is engaged with the printer drive. 

Canon’s new patents specifically call out how the tip of the dongle moves between a first position where the tip is a first distance (D1) away from the OPC drum and a second position where the tip of the dongle is a second, shorter distance (D2) away from the OPC drum. As depicted in “Figure 11,” taken from an exhibit in Canon’s USITC complaint, Canon is aligning the language of its patents with the operation of Print-Rite’s retractable dongle design.

By obtaining patents covering movement of the dongle toward or away from the OPC drum, Canon has put the aftermarket manufacturers in a very difficult position.  How will the aftermarket design a dongle gear that doesn’t rely on such movement, while also providing smooth installation and removal of the cartridge from the printer?  Moreover, even if new build compatible manufacturers come up with yet another functional design that gets around one or more of Canon’s patents, there is nothing stopping Canon from filing even more continuation patents covering those new designs.

This case highlights another often misunderstood aspect of patent law – just because you have a patent on your design does not mean you are safe from infringement.  As noted above, Print-Rite has patented the design that Canon now accuses of infringement.  Static Control, Ninestar, and Aster also all hold U.S. patents on their respective designs.  In fact, Static Control and Aster are currently engaged in their own patent infringement skirmish based on their respective retractable dongle designs, and now both have been sued for infringing Canon’s latest patents.  Their patents provide no protection from Canon’s patents, which are deemed first in time.

Aftermarket members have managed to outsmart or outrun the OEMs before, and may again this time.  But that route is neither obvious nor inexpensive.  And while some current manufacturers may continue to offer indemnification for their products against a potential Canon lawsuit, that protection may be short lived.

It is only a matter of time before the current new build replacements for Canon’s dongle cartridges become subject to a General Excluson Order (GEO), which Canon has already requested from the USITC. Then these products will be prohibited from entering the country. 

So as it was before the arrival of the new-built cartridges, it appears remanufactured cartridges, with reused OEM gears, may once again be the only legitimate competition for new OEM ones. 

 

OEM Trademark Usage Leads to US Seizures of Products

The automotive aftermarket has set several precedents that have been used by the imaging supplies aftermarket (and many others) to further the cause of overall remanufacturing.  Conversely, they celebrate and employ precedents set by the imaging supplies aftermarket as well. In the past five leading cases in the U.S., the Int’l ITC has filed joint briefs with the automotive aftermarket to further enhance our power and demonstrate the commonality of our goals.

Yet another interesting case has cropped up that deserves watching by all aftermarkets. The main player in the case is automotive mega remanufacturer LKQ.  LKQ was initially formed in 1998 through a combination of several similar recycling businesses located in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. It expanded through internal development and more than 220 acquisitions of aftermarket, recycled, refurbished, and remanufactured product suppliers and manufacturers.

In February, LKQ filed a suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in particular its Customs and Border Patrol agency (CBP), for illegally seizing its automotive grilles.  CBP claims these grilles are counterfeit or violate the OEMs’ trademarks, in defiance of the Tariff Act of 1930.

LKQ argues that there is no way that either of these claims are valid.  “Generally, these trademarks, as applied against LKQ, purport to cover the shape of the grilles themselves,” the complaint reads. “However, LKQ’s Repair Grilles cannot violate the OEM’s trademark rights (a prerequisite for seizures under the Tariff Act) because they are authorized under the long-standing and well-established trademark doctrines of functionality and repair. Further, in many instances, LKQ’s Repair Grilles are expressly licensed by the OEMs. Finally, LKQ’s Repair Grilles are not likely to cause confusion amongst purchasers or the relevant public.”

LLKQ outlined a host of seizures, and decried CBP’s actions as a “campaign” that favors a monopoly for the OEMs. “Beginning in April 2017, CBP began its campaign—which continues through to the present day—of erroneously applying the Tariff Act to Repair Grilles being imported by LKQ (the ‘CBP-Automakers Grille Monopoly Campaign’),” the complaint reads. “The CBP-Automakers Grille Monopoly Campaign has since resulted in more than 165 unlawful seizures of LKQ’s Repair Grilles intended for delivery to LKQ’s customers. These seizures are listed at Exhibit A, attached hereto (each, a “Case,” and collectively, the “Cases”), and have resulted in the unlawful detention, seizure, and threatened forfeiture of thousands of LKQ’s products embodying hundreds of different grille designs.”  Most seizures occurred at the Port of Savannah, Georgia, but others occurred in the ports of Long Beach, California, and International Falls, Minnesota.

Since the seizures have begun, LKQ claims, it has submitted 81 petitions seeking the release of its goods, and has met personally with CBP attorneys. “In each petition, LKQ requested that CBP: (1) determine that LKQ’s Repair Grilles are not counterfeit as a matter of law, but, rather, that they are lawful replacement parts; and (2) release the seized Repair Grilles,” the complaint reads. “LKQ argued that its grilles were not counterfeit as they were authorized by law under the functionality and repair doctrines, they were authorized by the Automaker under confidential licenses, and/or they were not virtually indistinguishable from the registered and recorded trademark relied upon by CBP as the basis for its seizure. LKQ’s petitions were fully supported by two nationally-recognized trademark experts: Professors Mark P. McKenna, of the University of Notre Dame Law School, and David J. Franklyn, of the University of San Francisco School of Law. Professors McKenna and Franklyn submitted sworn declarations that, in their opinion, LKQ’s Repair Grilles were non-infringing and the asserted trademarks could not be asserted against the aftermarket repair parts market.

After making herculean efforts to get its products released, the CBP remained steadfast in its position, leaving LKQ no option but legal recourse.  Despite LKQ’s many attempts to explain the lawfulness of its Repair Grilles, CBP continued (and continues) to seize LKQ’s Repair Grilles.  “As months went by without any ruling on LKQ’s petitions, and with seizures continuing to mount, it became clear to LKQ that CBP believed it had unfettered discretion to rule on the petitions at its leisure, having no duty or obligation to resolve the issue forthwith or without delay.”

The case involves the trademarks of all the major automotive OEMs, who are enjoying the benefits of CBP’s activities, despite taking no action themselves. “LKQ has contacted each of the Automakers to request that the Automaker provide written consent to CBP for LKQ to import the lawful Repair Grilles,” the complaint reads. “However, only BMW— recognizing the legality of LKQ’s Repair Grilles—has provided written consent to CBP. Despite never bringing (or even threatening) legal action themselves, each of the other Automakers has refused to provide said consent despite full awareness of the legality of LKQ’s activities under the law. In fact, in each of CBP’s final agency actions denying LKQ’s petitions, CBP has stated that they have consulted with the Automakers corresponding to each of the Cases and that in each Case, the Automakers have claimed that ‘the protected marks were not authorized to be applied to the merchandise in question.’ On information and belief, the Automakers have been complicit in the CBP-Automakers Grille Monopoly Campaign by misleading CBP as to the legality of LKQ’s products; and with regards to Ford and Chrysler, they have further misled CBP as to the scope of the confidential design patent license agreements between LKQ and Ford and Chrysler.”

The OEMs in other markets are most certainly watching. The imaging supplies aftermarket has had concerns about the use of OEM marks for decades. And with the number of products being imported, again, this case will have applicability. Stay tuned.