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Fujifilm, Polaroid in instant photo dispute

Fujifilm has responded to allegations of trademark infringement by Polaroid with a formal complaint to the US District Court seeking a ruling clearing it of wrong-doing.

The Polaroid OneStep 2 will provide a competitive alternative to the popular Instax system.

Since the release of the Fujifilm Instax Square system early this year, Polaroid has sent Fujfilm a series of letters first demanding it withdraw the product from the market; then threatening legal action; and finally demanding millions of dollars annually in royalty payments.

At issue is the white frame around the square print design, which Polaroid claims is its own distinct ‘trade dress’. It says the square form of Instax Square photos is ‘essentially identical’ to intellectual property it owns. The Polaroid-like borders on the Fujifilm Instax Square prints aren’t just there to look cool – they hold the dyes which are released in the instant printing system. But Polaroid’s concerns seem more with the look and shape of the Fujifilm Instax Square photos than the underlying technology.

Fujifilm denies it has infringed on Polaroid trademarks and accuses Polaroid of looking for another source of revenue ‘from what remains of the Polaroid IP Portfolio’ as it is ‘unable to return to profitability through product sales.’ Ouch!

(Polaroid does have form in this kind of litigation. It forced Kodak out of the instant photography market way back in the last century after a court case which seemed to drag on for about 10 years, and more recently went after GoPro, claiming its Hero4 Session camera was a knock off of the Polaroid Cube.)

The stakes in this one are high, with Instax proving a winner for Fujifilm and supporting retailers, and Polaroid on the verge of introducing the OneStep 2 ($199), its own all-new instant camera system using square film and the iconic Polaroid framing. Fujifilm predicts it will sell 7.5 million Instax products in 2017 – up from 5 million in 2015. In the next month or so it will have to start sharing the 21st Century analog instant photography market with its inventor. It’s Instax Square camera has an RRP of around $350.

Polaroid OneStep 2 cameras are on backorder on both the B&H and Adorama websites. Australian distributor Brands Australia is not anticipating good stock levels locally until early next year.


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