Epson America, Inc. says it has amended a lawsuit against Curtis International Ltd., the distributor and marketer of RCA brand projectors, claiming that the company grossly overstates the lumen output of its budget projectors in its advertising while misleadingly illustrating them performing in well-lit environments and referring to them as "Super Bright."
The new amendment names Technicolor SA, which owns the RCA brand and of which Curtis is reported to be a subsidiary, as an additional defendant.
The projectors in question are compact portable models that retail for less than $100 and are widely sold online at Amazon and other retail sites, and in discount stores like Wal-mart. They are among a fairly broad selection of similarly inexpensive, and similarly spec'd, projectors in the same product class from previously unknown brands that have become endemic to the market in recent years as Gen Xers have shifted their viewing away from televisions to laptops, smartphones and tablets. Occasionally, products like these appear under brands that have greater recognition to U.S. consumers, such as RCA, due to ownership or licensing of a once-heralded trademark. The original RCA was a co-founder of the U.S. television industry and was for many years its leading brand.
In its suit, Epson specifically sites several RCA models (see supplied chart) that are claimed by Curtis to generate 2,000 lumens or more of brightness but, in the worst examples, fail to produce more than 1 percent of that brightness. Epson says Curtis sells projectors under other brands as well, with similar false lumens claims.
Unlike the specifications of some audio/video products, notably the power wattage cited for audio amplifiers, there is no apparent FTC or other regulatory body oversight of projector brightness specifications that protects consumers and discourages false claims. For its own published lumen measurements, Epson adheres to the ISO 21118 industry standard, which calls for a 9-point measurement technique that is essentially equivalent in methodology to the long-established ANSI lumens standard many manufacturers still use and that we follow at ProjectorCentral when measuring review samples. The projector industry's most respected brands generally appear to be slowly adopting the newer ISO 21118 rules as an accepted industry standard.
Epson confirmed for ProjectorCentral that ISO 21118 measurements are cited in the supplied chart citing the "Actual Brightness" of the RCA projectors. These measurements were conducted for purpose of the lawsuit by Lumita, Inc., an independent third-party consulting firm that specializes in video product development "with an emphasis on color measurement, calibration, and image processing."
The civil suit against Curtis/Technicolor isn't Epson's first against a manufacturer said to be making false brightness claims. The company recently was awarded $5 million in damages and attained a permanent injunction against another budget brand, iRulu, on similar grounds. In explaining its latest court action, Epson cited brightness as the number one specification used by consumers to compare products for purchase, and quoted Mike Isgrig, Epson's vice president for U.S. consumer sales and marketing.
"When manufacturers use blatantly misleading specification claims it hurts the entire industry—from consumers, schools and businesses to retailers, dealers and suppliers," Isgrig said. "Epson ensures its performance claims are based on projector industry standards, and takes it seriously when competitors misstate specs that mislead consumers. This practice makes it impossible for consumers to make informed purchase decisions and is damaging to the credibility of the industry and those who support it."