Buying new Mamiya products from R. White for USA

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by photom, Sep 30, 2003.

  1. Has anyone had a problem bringing/shipping new Mamiya items into the
    USA for personal use (not for resale)? Robert White indicated for
    personal use it is not a problem and there is about a 3% customs
    charge (and of course shipping which is a reasonable amount). 3% is
    less than sale tax in most places.

    The Mamiya USA site has the info. below. Is Robert White leaving
    something out, or is customs not actually enforcing, or is this law
    only for products to be re-sold in a commercial manner? What is the
    real deal?

    "Mamiya America Corporation has registered the MAMIYA Trademark with
    the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), and has recorded this
    mark with the United States Customs Service for import protection in
    accordance with 19 C.F.R. Part 133.

    Under Section 526 (a) of the Tariff Act of 1930, the importation of
    any foreign-origin merchandise bearing the MAMIYA trademark, without
    the written consent of Mamiya America Corporation, is unlawful and
    prohibited. Unauthorized importations are subject to seizure and
    forfeiture by the United States Customs Service.

    Mamiya America Corporation has directed Customs to enforce this
    trademark aggressively, and to prohibit the importations of "gray-
    market" merchandise. Mamiya America Corporation will also pursue all
    of its available remedies for injunctive relief and damages against
    any persons who import, distribute, sell or otherwise deal in gray
    market merchandise bearing the Mamiya trademark."
  2. I believe the key statement is "Mamiya America Corporation will also pursue all of its available remedies for injunctive relief and damages against any persons who import, distribute, sell or otherwise deal..."
    You should encounter no problems if you are purchasing items for your own personal use. As you know, dealing with Robert White (or HKSupplies on eBay) can help you realize significant cost savings. Customs may or may not collect 3% on the cost of the goods (I have experienced both).
  3. If you were to search the archives, I think you'd find many people who happily
    bought gear from Robert White and had it shipped to the US. I bought a full
    Mamiya 7 outfit (body and three lenses) and couldn't have been happier.
    They shipped via UPS, who also acted as the customs broker. It got here
    within 5 days, as I remember (and I'm on the West Coast). Mamiya of America
    (MAC) can't do a thing as long as it's for your personal use. Of course, should
    you need warranty service, you'll have to ship it back to the UK (I had no
    problems). Some years later, though, it still gripes my cheese how much MAC
    marks up Mamiya gear compared to the rest of the world.
  4. This is a post from a thread about this very subject from the LF forum, and it clarified for me just what the issues are from someone who is apparently an IP Attorney, I think it's important because of the difference in the amount of money at stake regarding the consumer(us) and where and what we think we can purchase with our money. This post is an eye opener for me and I think it will put your mind at rest..........
    ......................."I hesitate to add to this thread, but I'm an IP lawyer who has some
    knowledge on the underlying issue, and hope I can clarify what is going on.
    This is an esoteric dispute about archaic statutes, and no one would have
    paid attention to any of it a month ago.

    There is a provision of the 1930 Tariff Act that makes it illegal to import
    foreign-made goods bearing a trademark registered under the Trademark Act
    then in effect, unless the owner of the trademark has given permission. Both
    the Trademark Act and common manufacturing and import practices have changed
    drastically since then. Foreign manufacturers and their authorized importers
    have been arguing with the Customs Service about the current meaning of the
    law for several decades. They contend that the law prohibits importation of
    gray market goods. The Customs Service disagrees, pointing out that the
    Trademark Act in effect in 1930 was repealed in 1946, and that the goods
    that offended under the old Trademark Act were completely counterfeit goods,
    not genuine products. They take the position that the statute applies only
    to importation of counterfeit products, and that there is nothing unlawful
    about gray market imports. So far, the courts have mostly agreed with
    Customs, based on common sense, and on the fact that the Tariff Act
    explicitly refers (by Title and Section) only to trademarks registered under
    the old, repealed Trademark Act.

    This difference of opinion is still working its way to the Supreme Court,
    and until it is decided there, it sets up an unfortunate situation where
    trademark owners are forced to take what look like unreasonable steps to
    preserve their position in the controversy. They feel they must take a
    strong stand on every apparent instance of unauthorized importation, lest
    they be accused of "waiving" the protection that they have spent millions
    trying to get the courts to recognize. It unfortunate that people like the contributor get entangled in this stuff, especially since I
    personally agree with the Customs Service on the issue. But, life does have
    its speed bumps, and this one hardly seems worth the emotion that it has
    --Lyle Aldridge................................................
    .........................................In addition, I have bought several pieces overseas, Classic cameras and professional gear, on these pruchase I'll get on occasion invoices of around $15.00 on a big ticket purchase, the only other thing out of the ordinary that has happened to me is that I once bought a Classic camera and the package arrive with 'Inspected by US Customs' all over the outside.

    This was a Classic camera that could be easily broken by someone examining it that didn't know what they were doing, I called customs about this inquiring if someone had operated the camera, they scoffed at that idea, stating that because of the volume of the packages they handle, they open a package look at it and that's it, they swamped with the bombs and drugs issue and don't have the time for much else.
  5. cxc


    Here in California I have bought a couple of times from Robert White and was not charged any duty. I believe the only issue is that the local importer will not honor the warrantee. For me personally this is not an issue, you must decide for yourself if the difference in price is covered by the added value of a warrantee.

  6. Mamiya America Corporation is a parasite that does not make cameras, yet managed to trademark the word "Mamiya" in the U.S. Their threats have virtually zero weight when pressed upon individuals who wish to import a single camera or two for their own use. Customs makes firmly explicit allowances for this sort of consumer, and M.A.C. knows it, yet they deceptively bluster in a frenzy of outrageous corporate arrogance, deliberately intending that a few more innocent individuals will be mislead.
  7. The only thing that MAC can do is to refuse to repair. Well, in my experience their repair service sucks, because no matter what happens they do only one the same thing - overhaul whether it's a minor repair or serious one. In first case they overchare you, in second they will ship it back having the same problems.
  8. I did some research on this awhile ago and even called customs. This is what I learned:

    Mamiya America (MAC) is the trademark holder of the name "Mamiya" in the US, at least as it applied to cameras, lenses, etc. Mamiya Japan also makes golf clubs and other things and I don't know how this would apply. Anyway, from a legal standpoint MAC is effectively outsourcing manufacturing of its cameras to a company in Japan coincedently name "Mamiya". MAC does have the right to import a camera from another maker, slap "Mamiya" on it and sell it in this country. MAC is an American owned company. This distinction gives them protection from grey-market goods as those grey-market goods infringe on the trademark of that US owned company.

    This differs from Nikon or Canon US as these companies are owned by Nikon Japan and Canon Japan respectively. Therefore, they don't qualify for this grey-market protection. In fact, if you buy a Nikon overseas and can produce the receipt to that effect, Nikon US will honor the warranty on a non-US product (like an F90s).

    There is one little loophole in the law that allows an individual to import one example of any trademarked product for their own use with in a calendar year (I think, it may be one year from the last importation). This means you can fly over to London, buy a M7II and one of each lens and bring them back with no hassle other than possible duty.

    The one thing I was never able to get an answer on is whether using a third party (ie. UPS or Fedex) to bring that camera over for you is legal.
  9. I took this from Robert Monaghan's HUGE (but dated 5/2000) missive titled
    "Savings 40-60% on New Grey Market PhotoGear Buying in Japan, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Grand Cayman.." found here.
    I quote;
    " In the past, Mamiya America Corp. has protected their valuable trademarks and associated rights to control the importation and distribution of these Mamiya trademarked photo items (cameras such as Mamiya 7 RF, RZ-67, and Mamiya lenses). We are not talking about bogus badly made copies of Mamiya products. These items were actually made by the Mamiya Japan entity at its Japanese and other foreign factories to full specifications. Bringing in a single one of each restricted trademarked item is permitted for personal use under U.S. laws. But bringing in multiples of the same item at the same time will fall outside of this personal exemption. In theory, U.S. Customs agents can remove the offending trademarks, possibly by even grinding them off. Ouch! But you shouldn't trigger this reaction if you aren't trying to import more than one of each item for personal use. But beware if you are bringing back more than one of the same item per trip by yourself! Some importer and retailer postings and pages suggest that your photo equipment is subject to being confiscated or destroyed by U.S. Customs. I have yet to see a documented recent case of such confiscations of photo equipment being imported into the U.S. for individual use (e.g., under the trademark item exemptions since 1990). Similarly, the last case I have heard of trademarks being ground off photo gear being imported into the USA by an individual is more than 20 years ago. Even in the case of one photographer who recently imported 3 sets of various trademarked goods, the U.S. Customs service only passed on his name to the local trademark holder. The U.S. Customs service didn't confiscate the goods, didn't grind off the trademarks, and didn't hold up the gear's entry into the USA. The trademark holder corporation sent him a nasty threatening letter. He could have avoided even this minor irritation simply by learning about the exemptions and importing just one of each item per month."
  10. Damn, my brother flew to London from New York last weekend just for dinner, he told me the round trip was just a little over 200 bucks.
    I wish I had known he was going over, the Mamiya 7ii sounds really nice...

    Anyone know if the Robert White store is anywhere near London and what type of taxes are imparted when you walk in to buy the merchandise?
  11. I think the key statement is here:

    • "Under Section 526 (a) of the Tariff Act of 1930, the importation of any foreign-origin merchandise bearing the MAMIYA trademark, without the written consent of Mamiya America Corporation, is unlawful and prohibited. Unauthorized importations are subject to seizure and forfeiture by the United States Customs Service."
    The interpretation being that customs will not import a product with the registered trademark of MAC - assuming it was manufactured by a foreign company. If you keep reading through it, you begin to realize that all they've done is asked customs to enforce the tradmark on items that may have been manufactured in foreign lands - not prevent re-importation of items that were already manufactured by MAC which are legally bearing the MAC trademark. IANAL, though.
  12. Robert White is in Dorset, a good ways south of London. Kind of like asking someone going to New York if they wouldn't mind stopping in Philadelphia--it can be done, but it's not exactly on the way.
  13. Teamwork Photo is in London. They're a very good shop and their prices are about the same as Rober White (also very good).
  14. I should also mention that you'll have to pay the 17.5% VAT but that's refunded when you leave the country.
  15. As I understand the law, when a US company owns a trademark name of items made in another country, the US company has the legal right to prevent others from importing the items into the US. Typically the stated justification is that the US company is spending money promoting, distributing and supporting the product and therefore should be able to prevent other importers from benefiting from their efforts. My opinion is that some photographic distributers are abusing this system and ripping off their fellow Americans with excessive markups.
    Mamiya America Corp is a US Company that imports cameras and lenses made a Japanese company, Mamiya. Mamiya America Corp owns the trademark "Mamiya" in the US. AFAIK, Mamiya America Corp doesn't manufacture anything themselves. Mamiya USA tries to prevent all others from importing Mamiya products.
    As I understand the law (and I am not a lawyer), the quotation "Under Section 526 (a) of the Tariff Act of 1930, the importation of any foreign-origin merchandise bearing the MAMIYA trademark, without the written consent of Mamiya America Corporation, is unlawful and prohibited. Unauthorized importations are subject to seizure and forfeiture by the United States Customs Service." is correct but incomplete.
    There is a legal exception to this law, which allows traveller's to import one of each item per year The person importing the item must be crossing the US border -- this legal exception doesn't apply to buying by mail (or UPS or Fedex). The exception only allows one of each item every 30 days, which probably means one camera and one lens. The items cannot be sold within one year.
    The US Customs describes this law in their printed and html brochure Know Before You Go. The section on the trademark rules is at
    An excerpt from the US Customs brochure:
    However, passengers arriving into the United States are permitted to import one article, which must accompany the person, bearing a counterfeit, confusingly similar or restricted gray market trademark, provided that the article is for personal use and is not for sale. This exception may be granted not more than once every thirty days. The arriving passenger may retain one article of each type accompanying the person. For example, an arriving person who has three purses, whether each bears a different infringing trademark, or whether all three bear the same infringing trademark, is permitted one purse. If the article imported under the personal exemption provision is sold within one year after the date of importation, the article or its value is subject to forfeiture.​
    As a practical matter, US Customs doesn't seem to care about persons importing trademarked items by mail (or UPS or Fedex) in small quantities for their own use. This subject periodically comes up on various photography forums and I have never seen anyone write that they have had goods seized or altered in recent decades. I don't know whether this is because the US Customs disagrees with the interpretation of the law held by Mamiya America Corp. and others, or whether they view trying to prevent small quantity imports of trademarked items as unimportant compared to preventing the importation of illegal drugs, items of potential use to a terrorist, and products that might carry diseases or insects that would damage agriculture in the US.

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