By Peter High, published on Forbes
Clifford Eric Lundgren, CEO of electronics reuse and recycling company, IT Asset Partners (ITAP) was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on February 28, 2017 for his role in an effort to copy, import, and sell counterfeit Microsoft software. Lundgren pled guilty to criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, and in May, a judge for the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida sentenced him to the prison time, three years of supervised release, and a $50,000 fine. Lundgren is in the process of appealing the sentence. As of June 19, 2017, he stepped down as CEO of the company.
ITAP is a Los Angeles-headquartered company with locations in Vancouver, British Columbia and Hong Kong. Lundgren founded the company four years ago, and wipes data and resells electronics, harvests components for use in new devices, and shreds devices to recover commodities. Lundgren is one part tech entrepreneur and two parts environmentalist.
Lundgren also gained fame through a project called The Phoenix, which was an electric vehicle made with recycled parts. It set a world record for distance covered on a single charge, which he describes at some length herein.
Lundgren also discusses his broader vision for the future of hybrid recycling angd global electronic asset management, the charges against him, the basis of his appeal.
Peter High: Eric, you were recently sentenced to 15 months in prison and you were fined $50,000. You pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and committing criminal copyright infringement. Despite your guilty plea, you are fighting the charge. Please explain what has transpired.
Eric Lundgren: Yes, I pled guilty to distributing a repair tool/recovery software called a “Dell Restore CD” in an effort to help people and our environment. The repair tools/software can be downloaded for free at Dell.com by any owner of a Dell computer. I provided these Restore CDs to refurbishers so that consumers could restore their computers back to factory settings in case of a software or hardware failure.
I believe that I am going to prison because I attempted to help consumers repair their computers and I got in the way of “planned obsolescence.” My purpose was to empower consumers to restore their Dell computers for re-use. Simply put, Microsoft did not want me to share the free repair tool/software with Dell consumers. Because I provided to the consumer a way to fix their computer using a free Dell restore CD, Microsoft argued that this equated to a potential loss of a repeat sale to Microsoft. However, the important thing to note here is twofold: First, Microsoft was paid for the sale of Windows in the original sale of the computer, and second the ability of a user to use and reload the version of Windows which originally came on the computer travels with the computer in perpetuity. Never are they required to repurchase Windows from Microsoft. Dell, frankly, wanted nothing to do with the case.
I also did this to keep working computers out of landfills. Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the United States and has been known to leach toxic chemicals into our environment and water table. We sold these at a nominal cost, mainly to cover our costs and shipping, as I was not doing this in order to make money. Indeed, as incredulous as this may sound to many in the “corporate” world, as it did to Microsoft and the judge, much of what I do in my recycling business causes me to break even or even to lose money. I do what I do to help consumers and the environment simply because it is the right thing to do.