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Canon US goes after grey marketers

Canon USA has filed US Federal Court lawsuits against several large online retailers to force them to stop selling grey market Canon cameras and other products in the United States.

Canon USA claims this 5D Mark III has a counterfeit serial number and was purchased from All New Shop. (Source: Canon USA)
Canon USA claims this 5D Mark III has a counterfeit serial number and was purchased from All New Shop. (Source: Canon USA)

In one lawsuit, Canon USA named Get It Digital and All New Shop as defendants, while in the other F&E Trading LLC (Big Value Inc, Electronics Valley, Electronics Basket, DavisMax, Netsales and Sixth Avenue) and its CEO Albert Houllou are named.

These retailers are not authorised Canon resellers. Some online retailers who are Canon USA authorised, such as B&H and Adorama, have previously sold grey market Canon products in addition to Canon USA-sourced stock marked as ‘Imports’. (Nikon Imports are still on the B&H website but Canon Imports are no longer advertised.)

The story was broken by Eric Reagan at US photo enthusiast website Photography Bay. He obtained copies of the court documents filed by Canon USA. The specific complaints included:
– Using counterfeit serial numbers on gray market Canon products;
– Lack of enforceable warranties or inferior warranty coverage;
– Packaging that does not accurately describe the products contained therein;
– The inclusion of photocopies of product operating manuals, as opposed to genuine manuals;
– Power supplies and accessories that are counterfeit, manufactured by third partes and/or not compliant with applicable laws, regulations and certifications

‘Canon USA cites US trademark statutes to argue that, because it is the exclusive licensee for the US market, the federal court should order the defendants to no longer offer imported Canon products for sale,’ Eric Reagan wrote in Photography Bay.

Canon USA claims the defendants’ behaviour amounts to unfair competition, topped up with a bit of false designation of origin and false description of goods, and finished off with a smidgin’ of misuse of Canon’s registered trademark.

Canon wants the court to issue an injunction that orders each of these companies to cease all sales of grey market Canon products. In addition, it wants the profits generated by the sales of the grey market Canon products along with damages, legal fees and costs.

Get It Digital and All New Shop were still gray marketing Canon cameras at time of publication.

BACKGROUND: The US camera market is far more ‘orderly’ than Australia. The Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) policies implemented over a year ago by suppliers with the leverage to enforce, it restricts authorised retailers from advertising a price lower than the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (although it can’t stop a retailer from selling a product at any price they choose.) At the launch stage of a new products’ life-cycle, the MAP appears to be keeping US prices higher than they would be without it. At launch, not even B&H and Adorama drop more than a few dollars below MSRP for popular brands such as Canon and Nikon. This has had a benefit for retailers in Australia and New Zealand by reducing price competition from US online retailers.

This new move by Canon will, if successful,  make the US market even more orderly, by eliminating the only other US-based source of Canon product. This will dissuade its authorised resellers from offering grey market product themselves, and protect them and its own online store from local grey market discounters.





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