Has HP Patented Refilling Ink?

from the seems-like-a-stretch dept

In a case that sounds somewhat reminiscent of Lexmark's (failed) attempts to use intellectual property law to block the competition, HP has decided to sue two companies that offer refilled ink cartridges for their printers. The ink business, of course, is big business -- with ink costing more than vintage champagne or high end perfume (depending on whose study you want to read). HP claims that they have nothing against customers choosing to buy refilled cartridges, but they have problems with these two refilling companies. The first one is accused of patent violations, which seems like an odd issue. The details (buried all the way at the end of the article) say the patents are about the type of ink -- which seems bizarre. Even more bizarre is that HP seems to make it very clear in the filing that if the three patents they've picked out don't stick, they have another 9,000 to choose from (which sounds eerily like IBM's patent attack on Sun years ago: "OK, maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"). The other claim makes a bit more sense, as HP says the second firm is packaging the refilled cartridges as if they were new -- which could lead to consumer confusion. Still, these lawsuits do seem like a simple attempt to scare off certain ink refillers.


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