German court rules clone products must make clear they are not remanufactured

Hagen court rules that it must be made clear that clone cartridge products are not remanufactured.

CRN carries the IT Law Kanlai’s Felix Bart’s report on the LG Hagen court’s ruling that a differentiation between cloned and remanufactured cartridges being sold must be made following complaints that wording on clone products can be misleading for consumers and cartridge suppliers.

The court’s decision means that it is prohibited for clone cartridges to be sold or distributed “without pointing out that this is not a remanufactured cartridge but (possibly infringing) newly manufactured replicas of toner cartridges”, stating that any other wording would be “misleading and therefore anti-competitive”. Violation of the ruling could result in a fine of up to €250,000 ($340,000), detention or imprisonment for up to six months.

The court used an example of an ambiguously labelled product, namely “Reusable Toner for HP LaserJet P 2050 Series P 2055”, which it pointed out was misleading due to the mention of the original cartridge. It was noted that it would not be clear to the public whether it was an original or compatible product and would run the risk of the supplier unintentionally misleading their product. Instead, it would be dependant on “the understanding of a reasonably well informed and circumspect consumer and the overall impression of the advertisement”.

Commenting on the court’s ruling, Vincent van Dijk, Director of ETIRA, said: “ETIRA welcomes this decision. We think it’s good for remanufacturers because it again clarifies the difference between rebuilding of OEM cartridges on the one hand, and new-built non-OEM models on the other.

“The judge in Hagen has given a strong warning to companies who sell those polluting new-built patent-infringing cartridges. His message is clear: don’t mess around with the word “remanufacturing”. In Germany, remanufacturing respects OEM patents and does something good for the environment. The Asian new-built cartridges do neither. The judge tells sellers of these products that the public has the right to know that they are at risk when they buy infringing clones.”

Meanwhile, Christian Wernhart, CEO of Swiss remanufacturer Embatex AG, added: “New-built cartridges have often a poor quality because the plastic and the injection moulding is not as good as an empty OEM cartridge.

“We test clones continously and many of them are leaking in the printer or break in the printer while it is printing. That’s the reason why the consumer must know if they are using a high quality remanufactured cartridge or a clone, because most of the consumers do not know the difference, they only know there exists an OEM cartridge and an aftermarket cartridge and we remanufacturers are put in the same pot as the clone producer.”

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