Nashua firm accuses giant lens company of software piracy

A small software company in Nashua is suing the largest optical lens manufacturer in the country, saying that the international giant ripped it off to the tune of $13.1 million.In a complaint filed Feb. 17 in U.S. District Court in Concord, Black Ice Software LLC and its subsidiary, LLC, allege that Essilor of America — a subsidiary of the multibillion-dollar French-based Essilor International — purchased its Print2Email product for $999 and then included it in its Visioffice product, which was shipped to thousands of eyeglass retailers.Using Visioffice, released last summer, eyeglass customers can have their glasses fitted for measurement simply by looking into a camera. The Visioffice equipment doesn’t just take a picture of the face, but records 3-D facial measurements for the retailer to size lenses and for the customer to select eyeglass frames.According to the suit, customers work with these recorded facial images on a Visioffice screen to compare how different frames look on their face, and then use Black Ice’s Print2Email software to send the images to friends and families via a smartphone to get feedback on which frames to purchase.But, says Black Ice’s suit, Essilor purchased the software license for $999 to obtain “the unlimited right to use Print2Email as an end-user, i.e. on site at the corporation.”The agreement “does not contemplate, nor does it permit, the end-user to resell or sublicence” the software, says the suit.Beginning in July, Black Ice says it began to receive customer service calls from Visioffice users saying their Print2Email 15-day demo period had expired and that they required registration.When Black Ice referred them to the provider of that software, Essilor — without telling Black Ice — “would remotely log on to the user’s Visioffice product and register Print2Email using Essilor’s assigned license key,” the suit alleges.After Black Ice updated the software in October, “Essilor activated the new version of Print2Email using Essilor’s own serial key” and “copied and delivered to its users the new version of Print2Email” to its customers, according to the filing.After Black Ice CEO Jozsef Nemeth called Essilor USA headquarters in Dallas about the situation last Halloween, he was reassured that the users would have to purchase individual licenses for Print2Email to activate the software, “but that statement was false,” the lawsuit says.In subsequent calls, Black Ice’s suit alleges, another Essilor official confirmed that the eyeglass retailers were using Essilor’s key. That key continued to be used, the suit says.According to the suit, Essilor’s key was used to activate the Black Ice software from 1,172 different Internet protocol addresses. Had each address purchased a license, Essilor should have paid $13.1 million, the suit claims.In additional to unspecified monetary damages, “Black Ice is also entitled to impoundment and destruction of all infringing copies of its copyrighted works, plus equipment used to produce them,” the suit said.Essilor could not be reached by NHBR deadline.On its website, the company claims it is the “leading manufacturer and wholesale distributor of optical lenses in the United States.”Internationally, the company – which is publicly traded on a Paris-based exchange — reported revenues of 3.9 billion euros (or more than $5 billion) in fiscal 2010, with a net profit of 462 million euros (more than $600 million.)At the end of the year, it employed 42,000 people.Black Ice, which also could not be reached Monday afternoon, is a privately held company that was founded in 1989. It develops printer driver technology, document imaging tools, faxing tools and application software for printing, faxing and imaging. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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