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Summary of the M-Edge Vs. Amazon Lawsuit

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the getting-the-scoop dept.

The Courts 61

An anonymous reader writes "According to a lawsuit filed by Kindle accessory maker M-Edge, Amazon is a threatening, deceitful, and interfering big brother figure. M-Edge accuses the Kindle maker of patent infringement, contract interference, false advertising, unfair business practices, and extortion. A summary of the lawsuit and events over the course of the last 3 years paints a very dark picture of Amazon's tactics for crushing competition and stealing the best ideas from its partners. It sounds as though M-Edge may have a very strong case against Amazon, and if it wins we could see Amazon forced to remove its own Kindle accessories from Amazon.com."

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61 comments

Well then (1)

AdamJS (2466928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38517952)

25% now? That would explain why the costs are so high despite the quality of the accessories not being anything to write home about.
At least, compared to the 90% cheaper Chinese knockoffs that manage to hold up just as well.

Bezos and his leadership seems to come across as an arrogant prick, but maybe that's just me.

Re:Well then (-1, Redundant)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518226)

Amazon has actually done a service to consumers by offering their Amazon Basics line of... stuff. Cases for their devices, as well as general computer/home theatre cables at reasonable prices in basic packaging. They are the best option for an HDMI cable or a Micro USB cable, for example.

I'm sure brick and mortars don't like them for driving down costs for consumers, and I'm sure these accessory makers don't like Amazon driving down the overinflated cost of accessories. (I bought a Kindle Fire case from Marware that they sold for $30 - it wasn't even worth $5)

I don't see what about "crushing competition and stealing the best ideas from its partners" is in play here. Slashdot always seems to feel that you shouldn't be able to patent things that are obvious - like a Kindle case.

I'll be amazed if there is actually any smoke to this fire - personally.

Re:Well then (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518326)

and I'm sure these accessory makers don't like Amazon driving down the overinflated cost of accessories.

How exactly does using extortionist tactics to charge exorbitant fees from manufacturers drive down the cost of accessories? The fact is, the M-Edge case was hands down the best case for the Kindle for at least the first year after release and it was priced the same as the Amazon branded case that was a worthless piece of crap. The first Amazon branded Kindle case that was remotely usable was all but a carbon copy of the M-Edge case. Whether or not that case should have been patentable is a different debate, but if the suit is to be believed, Amazon basically just kept jacking up the fees they charged M-Edge until M-Edge could no longer compete pricewise with the official Amazon case.

Re:Well then (0)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#38519602)

They drive down the cost of accessories by offering a product that works just as well as the other brands but is more reasonably priced.

As a consumer, it makes no difference to me if an obvious design is "copied". What I really want is a piece of plastic molded to certain dimensions, without paying $40 like Marware demanded for their Fire case, something that undoubtedly cost less than $1 to make.

Re:Well then (2)

Fritzed (634646) | more than 2 years ago | (#38519998)

Are you purposely missing the point, or just trolling?

If the claims are to be believed, the only reason that the Amazon branded cases were cheaper were because they forced 3rd parties to swallow an extra 25% commission on their cases that Amazon themselves didn't have to pay. If this commission were gone, it would lower the cost of all cases for the consumer.

You also seem to be defending Amazon's use of patents in your first comment, but that is actually the complete opposite of what is being discussed. M-edge holds a patent on a specific style of case for the kindle and Amazon is the one in violation of that patent.

Re:Well then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38520384)

As most of Slashdot is unaware of patents (this is not really a response to you personally, but the conversation at large), it looks like the patent that was issues to M-Edge was a "design patent", which is exactly as you say: a patent for a case of a specific look and feel. Translated into concrete terms, the ratio of dimensions of the case, the style and placement of holes in the case, the amount of bezel, etc. are all patentable only to force competitors into not copying your design and creating brand confusion. It is a really important thing to do if you are creating a case for a TV, a webpage (Google has a design patent on their homepage layout), and in this case, a case for a Kindle.

If Amazon is stepping on that patent (and it looks like they are), then M-Edge is totally in the right to sue them for all their worth. And if Amazon is using their monopoly to nudge Kindle case competitors out of the market (by forcing them to charge more to cover their incurred costs because Amazon charges them a 25% commission), then Amazon should be punished enough to make them think twice before doing this in the future.

Re:Well then (2)

bsane (148894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38519048)

I wasn't aware of the 'Amazon Basics' line of products until now, look like good stuff reasonably priced.

A couple checks though and it looks like monoprice.com is still a fair amount cheaper- no idea if quality is comparable, but I don't really have any problems so far with monoprice.

Re:Well then (1)

Fritzed (634646) | more than 2 years ago | (#38520018)

In my experience, the Monoprice quality is a bit higher, but an HDMI cable is an HDMI cable. Monoprice is miles ahead of them in terms of selection though.

Standard vs. high speed; connector durability (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38520426)

Not all HDMI cables are the same. There are "standard" and "high speed" ratings of HDMI cables. Officially, "standard" can carry 720p, and "high speed" can carry the higher frequencies needed for 1080p 3D. But there's no category in between for carrying a signal that's 1080p but not 3D, and some companies' "standard" rated cables may be perfectly capable of that. In addition, the connector on one company's cables might be more durable than another company's if you're going to be plugging and unplugging devices often.

Re:Standard vs. high speed; connector durability (1)

AdamJS (2466928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38525938)

The price differential is usually less than a dollar though, so you're paying $3.50 for a 3-6 foot instead of $2.50 which really is not a concern.

Re:Standard vs. high speed; connector durability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38529610)

Any that I have seen, high-speed has been synonymous with them being HDMI 1.4. Version 1.3 (i.e. "low-speed") allowed 1080p, but it did not allow 3D, HDMI ethernet, nor audio return channel (and 2060P, "quad-hd" resolution, but what lucky SOB has one of those for that to even matter).

Re:Well then (1)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518342)

Bezos and his leadership seems to come across as an arrogant prick, but maybe that's just me.

Steve Jobs did believe in reincarnation. I just figured it would have been someone younger, and already not a dominate leader in their industry. It would explain the rounded corners on the Kindles though.

Re:Well then (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38537416)

25% now? That would explain why the costs are so high despite the quality of the accessories not being anything to write home about.
At least, compared to the 90% cheaper Chinese knockoffs that manage to hold up just as well.

I don't know about that. I have a couple of their cases (for the Nook, as I avoid the Kindle), and the quality has been excellent. M-Edge is now my go-to for reader cases, party for great customer service, party because the quality is great, and partly because I love their light system than they have developed.

The only problem with M-Edge is that they cannot seem to keep the Black Executive case in stock for the Nook Touch. Seriously, who wants PURPLE? Yuk.

I have no problems with the big guys being bit, as long as they do not use their power to step on the little players. I am looking to buy a new case today, and I guess that I will **NOT** be ordering it from Amazon.

Careful now! (3, Insightful)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38517956)

From TFS:

A summary of the lawsuit and events over the course of the last 3 years paints a very dark picture of Amazon's tactics for crushing competition and stealing the best ideas from its partners.

*emphasis mine*
I'm no expert, but is 'painting a picture' another one of those libel-dodging phrases like 'allegedly'?

Re:Careful now! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518020)

No, it's just figurative language that has more descriptive quality than say "indicates" or "illustrates"

Re:Careful now! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518026)

Shut the fuck up, cumstain. If we wanted the opinion of someone who was better left as a blowjob we would have beaten it out of you.

Re:Careful now! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518054)

Cower more feeb

--mikeychrispeeter

Re:Careful now! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518134)

Shut the fuck up, cumstain. If we wanted the opinion of someone who was better left as a blowjob I would've spoken up earlier.

FTFY.

Re:Careful now! (1)

NicknameOne (2525178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518344)

I'm no expert, but is 'painting a picture' another one of those libel-dodging phrases like 'allegedly'?

I'm curious...what other word/phrase would you use in its place?

Re:Careful now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518788)

A summary of the lawsuit and events over the course of the last 3 years presents the plaintiff's view of an extremely high-profile case and libellously accuses Amazon of crushing competition and stealing the best ideas from its partners, statements which, if Slashdot were at all relevant, would lead to samzenpus and the owners of Slashot appearing in court.

Re:Careful now! (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38519050)

I'm curious...what other word/phrase would you use in its place?

Either a summary of the facts already known or a quote from the actual complaint.

Re:Careful now! (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 2 years ago | (#38519778)

That, and the actual article does no painting, nor is it a very dark picture. Amazon tried to get additional money, and I didn't see anything about patents or other infringement.

"a look at the full suit" is a blank box with noscript enabled, but I wouldn't have to read it if the article would explain the infringement parts a bit more.

The comments are more damning than the article.

just a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518098)

What's the difference between this and what Apple does on the app store? Forcing people into a 30% commission of product and if you don't like it leave? Also forcing people into direct saler of product though the app store?

I see nothing wrong here. If M-Edge didn't like it they could sale though other outlets. Negations can take a strong are stance.

Also note I'm not talking about the forced 25% communion from the past months that Amazon wanted to retro actively want, I'm talking about the items listed above.

Re:just a question (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518146)

Well, in the Apple walled garden, people willingly sign the contracts with such stipulations, but just bitch about it afterwards. Here it's possibly very much so a breach of contract.

Re:just a question (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518198)

M-Edge agreed to a long term contract rate with Amazon. Amazon decided they didn't like the contract that Amazon had agreed to, so it used illegal coercion to get M-Edge to agree to a new long term contract that was strictly worse than the old contract.

Its not an issue of the amount of the fee but the method at which it was obtained.

Re:just a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518302)

Looks like amazon learned from its crosstown neighbor how to do business.

Re:just a question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518384)

Amazon pretty much back-stabbed M-Edge. Is not uncommon for these big companies to do it, unfortunately.

--
I'm an arrogant asshole [mailto], so I work for Google now.

Re:just a question (3, Informative)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518436)

The difference is that M-Edge and Amazon had an existing contract specifying 8%. Amazon tried using vague threats of "ramifications" if M-Edge didn't pay 25% instead AND pay it retroactively no less. When a threat is strictly legal, it's rarely hidden behind vague terminology unless someone watched WAY too many mob movies.

Once the contract expires sometime in 2012, Amazon may demand 25% if it wants, but until then, it needs to honor its existing freely entered agreement with M-Edge.

patent infringement? (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518112)

they're fucking sleeves.

on the other hand, if they got anything they're claiming that amazon did in the suit in emails, recording or on paper, then amazon is throughly fucked. and another thing, wth was amazon thinking? if they want to alter the contract retroactively to be worse for the vendor than what it is because the vendor is doing good sales then they should just have bought the company, demanding tax on all sales by the company sounds just nasty and it makes no sense that if you got high volume your % to amazon goes up!

on yet another hand, again, they're sleeves and an opportunity product - an accessory for a device to be sold for a limited time and easily copied(which I guess why they patented it, though they might have been better off trying to find some other textile products to produce).

Re:patent infringement? (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518458)

Normally I might have little sympathy there, but in this case they're suing the holders of the one click patent, so it may be fair play.

Why is this surprising? (2)

steelfood (895457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518116)

Amazon is not Google. And even Google is not "good" in any moral sense; it just doesn't engage in evil business practices. Where in the spectrum Amazon falls in, whether it's between Apple and Microsoft, or between Oracle and eBay, or some other combination thereof, is arguable. But to think that Amazon is somehow good because it's not Apple or Microsoft is just being naive (likewise for Google, but there's a strong case that Google is closer to the opposite side than the side Amazon is on).

Re:Why is this surprising? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518184)

And even Google is not "good" in any moral sense; it just doesn't engage in evil business practices.

Or at least they don't want you to think they do... and in your case apparently they've been successful.

Re:Why is this surprising? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518558)

Yes the prophet Google, peace be upon them, has never done any wrong. Why even when engaging in proxy patent suits, doing the bidding of the Chinese government in censoring their site for many years, allowing scam sites to advertise phoney products through adsense/adwords for years, etc. Google, peace be upon them, is clearly guilty of nothing. All claims to the contrary are just FUD and less because the holy Google, peace be upon them, says they do no evil.

Re:Why is this surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38520044)

And even Google is not "good" in any moral sense; it just doesn't engage in evil business practices.

Apart from... basing its entire business model on mining my personal data so it can get other companies to inflict unwanted advertising on me -- companies who then pass on that "advertising tax" to me in the form of higher prices for the products I buy.

Not one bit of that is good. It's parasitic.

I'd rather have a company whose business model revolves around producing something of value or use, rather than that just be an accidental fallout of their actual unpleasant business model.

What a surprise. (0)

GigG (887839) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518180)

Do you expect the complainant in a lawsuit to "paint a picture" of all the great things the company they are suing is doing? Amazon may or may not be pure evil but the author of this post is a dumb as a stump.

Re:What a surprise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38520126)

Amazon may or may not be pure evil but the author of this post is a dumb as a stump.

What does that make the editor?

Re:What a surprise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38520324)

Dumber than a stump.

Re:What a surprise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38520726)

Bravo, sir.

I own an Medge sleeve for my Nook (2)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518192)

Not a kindle, but the Nook (in part because I like to keep the books I download, as opposed to have Amazon 1984'em back.)

It is well designed and works well with the product. The light (purchased seperately from Medge) works well with both.

Just because they are accessories does NOT take away their contractual rights or patent rights. Medge came out with products superior to Amazons, and Amazon should not have the right to change the contract after it was signed, let alone steal Medge's superior design.

quick summary (5, Informative)

rgbrenner (317308) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518230)

I didn't read all of it... but basically M-edge says:

* Amazon and M-edge signed a 3 year agreement where amazon would receive 8% + an additional 7% = 15% of their sales on Amazon
* about a year past, and amazon demanded and harassed m-edge to sign a new agreement where amazon would receive 32%. amazon threatened to delist m-edge from amazon.
* m-edge eventually agreed to the new agreement
* an additional period of time passed, and amazon demanded that m-edge sign a new contract where they would receive an additional 30% (or so) + 10% of all of m-edges sales to other retailers or they would be delisted.
* m-edge refused
* amazon sent out an 'approved kindle accessories manufacturers' list to m-edges retailers that did not include m-edge
* retailers called medge to ask about the list, and medge lost business, and some retailers stopped ordering
* medge continues to refuse to sign a new agreement.. amazon says medge breached prior agreement and terminates the agreement.

medge also says amazon infringes on one of their patents... and that amazon lists medge's products as unavailable (where they should not be listed at all) and suggests amazon's own accessories instead.

there's some other stuff about amazon withholding payments, etc... but the above is basically it.

Re:quick summary (4, Informative)

rgbrenner (317308) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518304)

I should add: m-edge felt the need to sign the first revision because amazon accounted for 90% of their sales.

after that, M-edge signed up other retailers.. then amazon demanded a new contract where they would receive 10% of m-edges other sales.

Re:quick summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38541550)

SHUUUUUT UP YOU KNOW NOTHING

Re:quick summary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518420)

Amazon has a history of offering very good terms to early partners, then forcing them to agree to terms more and more in Amazon's favor. That happened to me with the Associate and Advantage program. So this sounds quite consistent. You need to watch your back when dealing with Amazon

Re:quick summary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518696)

FUCKING LOL TO THE FUCKING A

"That happened to me"

Yes because you're JUST as important as an actual company selling ACTUAL stuff that anyone with a fucking brain might ACTUALLY want to read. Not only are you providing utterly unsupported anecdotal "evidence", you're also providing completely useless, off-topic, irrelevant "evidence", founded on the belief that you, selling fuck-all, are in the slightest bit important.

Re:quick summary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38518916)

I like to pretend all AC comments are actually written by a single schizophrenic person having a public argument with themselves.

Re:quick summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38519014)

This thought has occasionally occurred to me, too. It certainly adds an extra spice to proceedings.

Re:quick summary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38520292)

No it doesn't.

Re:quick summary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38521002)

naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies naked ladies ...

Sorry, what were you saying? Was it something about naked ladies?

Re:quick summary (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518546)

If accurate, M-Edge should receive a very large refund from Amazon, along with the reinstatement of the original contract terms. Then, add a very large punitive settlement and all legal costs. And throw in 10% of Amazon's sales for a year just for good measure (since 10% is what Amazon was demanding).

Re:quick summary (1)

arkhan_jg (618674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38519848)

M-edge stuff is available on the Amazon UK store just fine; maybe Amazon Europe is being less evil. I have two m edge cases for kindle 3s, plus the associated light. They are great and do exactly what they should. Good build quality and half the price of the Amazon own brand stuff. I hope m-edge nail Amazon to the wall over this if even a fraction of it is true.

Press Release? (2)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518628)

DId M-Edge post this story? It sounds too good, and makes them sound like saints.

Re:Press Release? (1)

rgbrenner (317308) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518766)

It's M-edge's complaint/lawsuit... so of course it contains nothing bad about M-edge. I'm sure once Amazon's lawyers get it, they will have their own list of terrible things M-edge's did to them.

This cannot be Bezos' Amazon (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518684)

According to a lawsuit filed by Kindle accessory maker M-Edge, Amazon is a threatening, deceitful, and interfering big brother figure.

What!?!? It can't be! I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

Maybe someone should create an alternative store (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 2 years ago | (#38518854)

for selling Kindle accessories. They can call it...

KINDLEss.com

Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38520876)

I thought Apple or was it Microsoft had patented these tactics years ago?

Sears and Wal-mart methods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38527442)

Both Sears and Wal-Mart have engaged in the same predatory practice that Amazon is now using. They suck third party vendors into lucrative deals for selling product, become the majority of the vendor's sales, then give the vendor the choice of closing their business down or giving up all the profits.

Wal-mart did this to the pickle maker (Glassen?) by buying a lot of dill pickles at a decent price, then when Glassen changed their production mix to include making the large 1-gallon jugs of dill pickles, Wal-Mart then demanded that Glassen reduce their price. Glassen ended up stuck with the choice of selling pickles to Wal-Mart below cost or shutting down. Glassen tried to survive for a while, but because Wal-mart was selling pickles so cheaply, other grocery stores could not sell enough pickles to make up for the Wal-Mart below cost sales. Glassen ended up going bankrupt.

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