Concept Chaser President Says He Trusted Pentel

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CITY NEWS SERVICE

The head of an El Segundo ad agency, testifying in the trial of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that he and his wife filed concerning the marketing of a gel pen, said Nov. 30 that the companies behind the writing instrument promised never to purloin the couple’s sales proposal as their own.

Yoshi Hayakawa, president of Concept Chaser Co. Inc., told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury that Isseki Nakayama of Pentel of America made the commitment during a late 2007 meeting concerning how to best increase sales of Pentel’s HyperG pen in America.

Hayakawa and his wife, Clara Goh Hayakawa, believed the pen should be targeted at college students rather than working professionals.

“He (Nakayama) told me, `Of course not, we’re not going to steal. Nothing like that,’ ” Hayakawa said.

Hayakawa said he believed Nakayama because the two had done business together three years earlier. “That’s why I trusted him.”

Pentel maintains the HyperG is waterproof, that its ink will not fade over time and that users will experience “super smooth writing.”

In their suit filed in December 2009, Concept Chaser maintains that Pentel of America, located in Torrance, and its parent firm, Tokyo-based Pentel Co. Ltd., took the firm’s idea to target younger people instead of doctors, lawyers and other professionals as a way of marketing the HyperG in the U.S. and to hold a contest to come up with the best line concerning the pen’s smooth writing aspects.

The Hayakawas maintain the Pentel companies rejected their marketing plan for the HyperG in 2008 after claiming it was too expensive, but then used their ideas anyway without paying them. They say they hoped to use the Pentel contract to catapult their small agency to prominence.

The couple is seeking more than $240 million in damages.

Pentel lawyers say the idea to run a contest among college students was developed internally, as was the idea of incorporating a flirtatious connotation within the contest by asking contest entrants to come up with the “smoothest line.”

But according to Hayakawa, Nakayama was initially skeptical of pitching the pen to young people instead of doctors and lawyers. He said Nakayama gradually warmed to the idea and acknowledged the Concept Chaser sales campaign proposal was different from anything Pentel had done before.

Nakayama eventually presented Hayakawa with the news he and his wife wanted to hear, the witness said.

“I have good news, Japan likes the idea, they want to go forward,” Hayakawa quoted Nakayama as saying.

Nakayama said in January 2008 that the Concept Chaser proposal was not affordable, even though the Pentel executive had said earlier he had a $1.5 million advertising budget, Hayakawa said.

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