Canon USA filed an Amended Complaint last week against F & E Trading, LLC (aka Big Value, Inc., Electronics Valley and others) in its ongoing battle against gray market retailers who are undercutting the market in the US on DSLR sales. I have obtained a copy and embedded it at the bottom of this post for those who want to read the fine print.
In its Amended Complaint, Canon USA doesn’t really add on any additional egregious actions, but rather takes aim at pinning the alleged misconduct on Albert Houllou, who appears to be the principal owner/operator of F & E Trading.
Canon USA slices out several facts in an attempt to paint Houllou as the real wrongdoer in its trademark violation case. This strategy is a common tactic in lawsuits against companies.
Canon cites the following YouTube video as evidence that Houllou is the controlling party for all of the companies’ actions.
As someone who used to practice corporate law, I can tell you that it is always a big win to get an individual (typically an owner or executive) on the hook for the wrongdoing (aka “piercing the corporate veil”). This allows the plaintiff (e.g., Canon USA) to hold a person (not just a company) personally liable for the wrongdoing. If you can get at a person’s assets, then you can apply a whole lot more pressure in settlement negotiations or drive them into bankruptcy.
The more I look into the actions by the various gray market retailers Canon USA is suing, the less sympathetic I am with Canon’s cause.
As Canon Rumors pointed out after this story initially broke, Canon USA created the boom of gray market discounted by cameras by setting and strictly-enforcing Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) for its products in the US. Read the comments at Canon Rumors for a good overview of people’s feelings toward Canon’s attitude toward gray market and MAP policies. Planet5D also has a good overview of MAP and how it is legal.
Based on the feedback I have received from Photography Bay readers, along with the pro-gray market discussions elsewhere online in reaction to these cases, I can’t withhold recommendations that you don’t purchase gray market camera products anymore. I do caution you to understand what you are purchasing regarding warranty and non-native power cords; however, the warranty questions were always a consideration.
I’ll continue to listen to your feedback and continue to follow these cases and update you as they progress.