Following two lawsuits against online stamp service rivals, the Department
of Justice’s antitrust division has launched an inquiry into
anticompetitive conduct by postage meter company Pitney Bowes.
Pitney and Stamps.com late last week were served a civil investigative
demand for documentation in several areas, regarding possible “exclusionary
conduct by a monopolist aimed at interfering with the entry of potential
competitors.” The inquiry named postage meters and online postage services
as the markets under investigation.
Stamps.com Monday said it would comply with the inquiry and simultaneously
announced plans to fight the upcoming lawsuit over alleged violations of
two Pitney patents related to postage application
systems and electronic indicia.
Pitney is in a stand-off with two companies to which it claims to have
offered licensing deals before following up with the lawsuits. E-Stamp has
also said it will contest the allegations.
“Once again, the Internet changes everything,” said John M. Payne,
president and CEO of Stamps.com.
“This is a classic case where an industry is turned upside down as
traditional manufactured products can be replaced by low cost services
available widely over the national infrastructure of the Internet. We do
not believe the Pitney Bowes lawsuit has any merit and we intend to
aggressively defend our position.”
E-Stamp beat Pitney to the test market, winning the first approval from the
U.S. Postal Service to explore products which download stamp
software off the Internet for computer printout. Stamps.com is in the third
and final phase of market testing.
Pitney has identified 19 U.S. patents and four U.S. patent applications
that it said would be infringed by postage metering systems which meet the
requirements of the USPS’s Information
Based Indicia Program for electronic access to postage, according to