By: Jim Rosenberg
Rockwell continues to sue imitators of its venerable
Community press; after DEV’s demise, new U.S. firm acquires
its drawings, staff; Rockwell sues Canadian pressmaker;
Indian manufacturer sells its first press in U.S. sp.
ROCKWELL GRAPHIC SYSTEMS sees only so much flattery in others’ imitation of its 31-year-old Goss Community press.
One such pressmaker already has succumbed to longstanding litigation and another is defending a similar suit in Canada.
Nevertheless, Rockwell still faces competition, at home and abroad, in the market for the small and widely used offset newspaper press.
In early spring, at the annual America East newspaper operations and technology conference in Hershey, Pa., U.S. and Indian pressmakers announced their first U.S. sales.
Meanwhile, a third, Canadian competitor was six months into a paperwork war with Rockwell, a result of the latter’s lawsuit.
The three companies’ principal common attribute is their marketing of presses designed to compete with the venerable Community. With patents expired on the press’s original designs, Rockwell has sought to ensure that competition from lower-priced rivals is based on legitimate business practices.
DEV Inc. went out of business almost a year ago after a judgment was entered in a case charging them with theft of Rockwell Graphic Systems trade secrets.
But another suburban-Chicago company, incorporated last summer, has begun selling the same single-width offset presses sold by DEV and is servicing DEV’s customers. Tensor Group Inc. made its debut in the America East exhibit hall.
The company was founded by Martin Hozjan, owner of MAH Machine and MAH Industries, Chicago-based firms that performed DEV’s parts machining and equipment assembly. Tensor bought at auction the rights to DEV’s drawings and hired DEV’s staffers, said the new company’s sales vice president, Richard Boat?.
“None of the prior DEV owners has any affiliation with the company,” said Boat?, once a regional sales manager for DEV.
Michael Warneke, an attorney with Keck, Mahin & Cate, the law firm representing Rockwell Graphic Systems, said that former DEV president Tosh Yamagata holds roughly a 30% stake in MAH Industries. RGS filed a contempt motion against Yamagata and Tensor, but withdrew it pending the outcome of ongoing discussions. A status call before the presiding judge is scheduled for July 1.
Tensor offers essentially the same presses with the same numerical designations as those sold by DEV: the 30,000-pph Model D-1400 tubular press comparable to Rockwell’s Goss Community and the 50,000-pph Model D-2400 semicylindrical press comparable to the Goss Urbanite.
Both presses can be configured as stacked units or rollstand-mounted single units. Tensor also sells the D-1 and H-50 folders.
“All parts that were in question by Rockwell,” said Boat?, “were reverse engineered by an outside, independent company” for Tensor.
Tensor already has its first U.S press installation ? four 1400 units configured as two two-high stacks, with an H-50 folder, sold to Central Ohio Advertisers in Lancaster, printer of Investor’s Business Daily. Sales administrator Carol Baxter said Tensor has also sold presses to six or seven overseas customers.
With a long list of overseas sales (including recent orders from China), The Printers House Ltd. received its first U.S. order for an Orient press. The two units were expected to arrive by early June for installation at the King (N.C.) Times-News plant.
Ted O’Toole, whose Atwood, Calif.-based Western Web Sales represents the New Dehli press manufacturer in the U.S., reported the Orient was slated to ship April 1 and arrive in about 40 days.
Two months after America East, however, King Publisher Turk Tergliafera said the press was still in transit and expected in about 10 days. He said the installation would probably be complete two weeks after delivery.
The press purchase and import put the local publisher-printer on unfamiliar business terrain. Tergliafera said he naturally approached his local banker, who then turned the matter over to the bigger Wachovia bank in Winston-Salem, which was better able to deal with such matters as international letters of credit, insurance, customs requirements and an intermodal bill of lading. (Earlier this year, Wachovia Corp. chairman John Medlin was named a director of Media General Inc., parent company of the local daily Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, which is installing its own new presses imported from Japan.)
Tergliafera is adding the Orient units to his four units of 1978 Community with an SSC folder.
“We needed more units to do more color to do more work,” said the publisher of four weekly newspapers based just north of Winston-Salem. But even without the added capacity, Tergliafera’s Community units are already rolling out a substantial amount of work.
In addition to the Times-News and his Danbury Reporter, Yadkin Enterprise and Weekly Independent, Tergliafera also handles printing for four other weeklies, retail advertising circulars, real estate guides, two stock car racing papers, two shoppers and newsletters for three arts organizations.
In all, the publisher said his shop has 40 to 50 regular accounts for jobs that vary in frequency from once weekly to thrice yearly.
“Eighty percent of our runs are less than 10,000 copies,” he said, adding that a handfull of customers need only about 1,000 copies and the occasional job has required up to 450,000 copies.
But beyond the volume of work, the demand for color is driving Tergliafera’s expansion.
“Our problem is, so many people want process color, and with four units, we’re limited with our page count,” he said.
“With two more units,” he explained, “I’ll probably keep two of the units with process color in them at all times, and keep four units of black.”
Conceding that it won’t always stay that way, Tergliafera said that as long as it does “it will eliminate a lot of changeover time ? of cleaning out fountains for inks.”
After “just by chance” learning of the Orient when he noticed an ad O’Toole had placed, Tergliafera said, “I’ve talked to people on just about every continent who are running them,” including sites with Orient and Community units in the same pressline.
He said all his contacts reported they were happy with the press, including those in Australia and Sweden and one in England who has printed on Orient units since 1987.
Tergliafera acknowledged that because he is the first U.S. buyer, he’s paying an especially low price for his two new printing units ? less than half of the cost of new Goss units, he said, adding that had he been able to afford them, he would have bought more.
Eventually, if his new units prove to be “half as good as we think,” Tergliafera said he wants to buy five more Orient units and sell his Community units. Even at their normal price and adding the cost of shipping, he said Orient units are reasonably priced.
For parts, however, shipping becomes a greater part of the total cost. But the cost is still low, said Tergliafera, who said Orient owners simply fax their needs to New Delhi and the parts ar shipped express service.
Customers are dependent on the overseas manufacturer because “everything’s metric,” said Terglaifera.
The Orient may be comparable to or compatible with the original Goss design, but it’s no clone. Orient and Community units cannot swap parts. The only interchangeable item, according to Tergliafera, is the printing blanket. He said, however, that he’s found one U.S. firm that will refurbish the rollers.
Further, his new units will have to be modified “so that my existing roll shafts will fit in them.”
Other mixed-line users, he said, have shafts color-coded for Orient and Goss machines.
More recently, New York City’s Stellar Printing ordered an Orient unit for installation in July.
Among other publications, the company prints many community and ethnic newspapers, including two competing Spanish-language papers, on its Goss Community and Urbanite presses. The latter press was used to print a regional edition of The National, the defunct sports daily.
Stellar is also looking at printing other area weeklies that now do only their own very limited printing, as well as printing copies of foreign newspapers for local distribution among the city’s ethnically diverse population. By early June it expected to be running Italy’s La Repubblica, according to president Ken Akulin.
Akulin said he’ll try out the Orient unit stacked on one of his Community units. He may buy more ? stacking more “where practicable” all down the pressline for spot and process color where needed ? if the first unit works to its satisfaction.
“The only way to really know is to put it in and run it a while,” said an Akulin, who favorably compared Orient’s original Goss design with what he called other Community “look-alikes.”
Akulin said he spent much time in several Asian countries and expects to visit The Printers House on a return visit to India after many years ? but not before his trial unit is up and running.
“In 1978,” said O’Toole, Goss went over to India,” where now-retired Rockwell executive “Lester Kraft signed a licensing agreement with The Printers House.”
He said TPH received all pertinent Goss drawings with the understanding that it would make and sell Community presses in 11 southern Asian coun-tries where Goss did not already do business. Goss received compensation
for the sales.
When the agreement expired, TPH took the position that it retained full rights to make the press and sell it where it pleased, according to O’Toole, who said Goss thereafter received no payments on TPH sales.
He added that Rockwell, which acquired the Miehle-Dexter-Goss business, has yet to challenge sales of Orient presses anywhere in the world.
Apparently no such license was granted to another pressmaker that entered the same market targeted by the Community press, and last August Rockwell filed a lawsuit in Toronto similar to its action against DEV.
The suit names a Canadian company that since 1989 has installed dozens of units at print sites in Canada. Like other presses, Web Machinery Sales Inc.’s Ventura press is reportedly comparable to the Goss Community.
Reading from a statement supplied by company lawyers, a Rockwell Graphic Systems spokesman said the suit alleges that the Tilbury, Ontario, company “misappropriated Rockwell proprietary manufacturing drawings” and used them to make the Ventura press.
Web Machinery president Gerry Houle did not return repeated calls for comment.
A Canadian journalist who examined some of the voluminous documents filed at the Ontario Central Court’s General Division said Houle refutes Rockwell’s claim that he saw such drawings and states that his Ventura has features unlike those on the Community. A change of venue was reportedly pending as of late last month.
The reporter added that Rockwell is asking the court to enjoin Web Machinery from continuing to sell the Ventura, that it is seeking at least $5 million in damages and that the names of three other companies (in Ontario, Illinois and Michigan) were added to the complaint.
One local Ontario printer who runs a 1960s-vintage Community press and from time to time has depended on Houle’s expertise for its repair, had this to say about the litigants: “I’m a great fan of the Goss press, and of Gerry Houle, [whose repairs] rescued us on several occasions.”