Aster Graphics Responds to Canon’s Toner-Cartridge Patent-Infringement Legal Action

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The Recycler reported today that it received a statement from Aster Graphics of Southern California in response to Canon Inc.’s recent legal action take against 49 manufacturers, sellers and distributors of third-party, OEM-alternative toner cartridges in the United States, with Aster being one of the companies named in the legal action.

Canon announced the legal action in early March 2018, announcing that it had filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) against 49 manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of third-party clone toner cartridges and imaging drum units. It also filed patent-infringement lawsuits in the United States against various companies. The complaint asserts that the companies’ printer supplies infringe on various Canon patents related to toner cartridges and imaging drum units that are used in HP laser printers.

In its statement to The Recycler, Aster noted that there are two types of third-party printer supplies: remanufactured cartridges that are manufactured using depleted OEM toner cartridges or consumables such as printer imaging drums, and new-built supplies that are build new from the ground-up. (Editor’s note: there is also a third category – fake printer supplies that are fraudulently branded with an OEM brand name. Canon’s legal action doesn’t involve these fake or “copycat” printer supplies.)

Aster Graphics noted that remanufactured products need to abide by Permissible Repair law, and may be subject to patent infringement claims by merely replacing an OEM imaging drum with a new imaging drum.

Aster says its own products are embedded with its own technology that is says are “protected by valid and enforceable patents which are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”  It says it’s applied for over 300 patents worldwide, and “we have always respected the intellectual property of third parties. Innovation has and will continue to be a core business initiative.”

The firm also stated:

“Aster became the first company to attain a solution to the 2012 337-TA-829 GEO by introducing our own Gear Tek products (covered by Aster’s own U.S. Patent NO. 8,805,242) which was approved by the United States Customs. Similarly, during the 337-TA-918 investigation filed by Canon in 2014, Aster’s Smart Gear products (covered by Aster’s own U.S. Patent NO. 8,731,435) were approved by the United States Customs, and Aster again became the first company to overcome the GEO of 337-TA-918. Our products have never been subject to a seizure order, and our product supply has never been interrupted.”

On its Web site, Aster Graphics states that its “closed-loop recycling process allows us to reuse and recycle plastics, components, metal, aluminum and other raw materials which would normally end up in landfills. Recycled cartridges are sent to our factory located in China for processing and remanufacturing… After (the) remanufacturing process is complete cartridges are shipped back our distribution center for resale.”

Not Clones

Aster Graphics also stated that some of its competitors have issued “malicious, uninformed, and negative messages …who allege that Aster’s products are infringing other’s patents and intellectual property,” and stated that these “comments are baseless, reckless and completely false in their assumptions.”

The firm also stated that its customers are “fully indemnified.”

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