The HP Way: Scientists Innovate New Ways Of Determining Ink Patent Infringement

from the in-the-black dept

As HP challenges IBM for the title of world's largest computer company, it's worth remembering that at its core, the company is an ink company. More than 80% of its operating profits come from its ink and toner cartridges division. So it's little wonder that the company will do everything in its power to stave off competition in this area. The company has a history of using its intellectual property to bully third-party refillers, under dubious claims of patent violations. The company supports its aggressive legal strategy with a team of scientists that analyze the chemical makeup of competitor ink, looking for anything that might run afoul of its patents. This story demonstrates how counterproductive a system is that rewards companies for spending so much time and effort filing and defending patents. Not only does this harm consumers by keeping competition at bay, but the head of the company's testing lab is a person whose expertise is in cancer research. Apparently, under the current system, her skills are more valuable when applied to analyzing ink to support lawsuits than they are to doing potentially lifesaving research.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Jim Zandi, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 12:27pm

    Scientist

    I wonder how skilled the scientist really was at cancer research. Maybe she was really terrible at it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Mike, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:01pm

    better application of time

    While HP may be approaching [MP|RI]AA evil on the IP litigation front, the last comment in this post is a really cheap shot. My time as a developer may be better spent helping create applications for distance learning in remote villages, however, I have grown rather accustomed to having food to eat and a roof over my head, so I continue to work in the corporate world.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Scientist

    I wonder how skilled the scientist really was at cancer research. Maybe she was really terrible at it?
    And I wonder why you would say such a thing about someone for apparently no reason.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Hero, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:26pm

    #2#3

    What is today be super sinsitive day? I guess I missed the memo...

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:32pm

    And I wonder why you would say such a thing about someone for apparently no reason.

    Maybe because she is spending her time at HP researching ink rather than at the NIH or a pharma company doing research on Cancer?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:34pm

    why do they allow for patents on ink? it makes little to no sense... it's akin to patenting perfumes or a type of soda or juice...

     

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  7.  
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    PO'd at the Medical Industry, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:41pm

    Cancer...

    You really want to cure diseases and cancer?? Make it so that no one can patent medical research or drugs! Right now the corporations are more interested in creating new patents and making a profit off of them then actualy doing any real reasearch or looking for cures.

    My own research has been cut 10 times this year alone simpley because it was progressive but not profitable. Unless you create something synthetic that they can rubber stamp and sell at overinflated prices, it won't ever see the light of day, regardless of how beneficial it is.

    Bah.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Scientist

    The fact that she has an expertise in cancer research but isn't pursuing a career in it might be a clue. It's logical to find that strange and wonder as to why you dink.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:46pm

    Re: better application of time

    I agree. It is a pretty pointless off-topic comment.

    That being said it is rather interesting and peaks my curiosity as to why.

     

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  10.  
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    bendodge, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:46pm

    Re: better application of time

    Agreed. The closing comment shows just how desperate the author was to make HP look bad, and it was a very low blow.

     

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  11.  
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    shaka999, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:46pm

    Ha ha

    Yeah, lets cut patents so the companies can't make any money on their research. Thats sure to inspire them to spend more time and money on new drugs.

     

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  12.  
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    ®idiculous ©rap, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:48pm

    testing lab - job?

    Finally someone gives respect to the pharmaceutical industry.

    We would love to hire that 'ink testing' developer. Admittedly, we do already have more than three people working on cancer research, so we would prefer to have her start testing a new boner pill we're about to seek FDA approval for.

    Sincerely,
    Pfizer, et al

     

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  13.  
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    YourMom, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Cancer...

    If you banned patents, pharmaceutical companies would no longer have any financial reason to invest in R&D, so they probably wouldn't.
    Not a good way to cure anything...

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Cancer...

    You're completely full of crap.

    What do you expect - for someone else to foot the bill in the name of benefiting society? Did you forget that what actually keeps society going is our economy? I'd love to see you quit your job and donate all your work without ever making a red cent.

    Now, I'll agree that prices are inflated; but that is no reason to have a pissing party on the whole damn industry.

    You can bet your ass that the industry would love to find a cure for cancer. That's one cure that worth gold - both to those suffering and the industry. Money makes the world go round. Sure, we could use a bit more honesty and a little less greed but give me a freakin' break you whiner.

     

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  15.  
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    gordo tee, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 2:07pm

    third party refills

    i think it would be in HPs best interest to stop paying millions of dollars trying to stop us(cartridge refillers), and realize they can instead make money by selling us their toner and ink. The reman/refill industry makes nearly 20billion from HP and Lexmark cartridges. No matter what they try and do, they will never be able to stop us from what we do, so they might as well stop wasting their money and join us. Aside from it being smart for them financially it would make them look better for supporting recycling.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Lay Person, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 2:18pm

    Hmmm

    Ink...Cancer?

    It really doesn't matter what the research is. Chemists are chemists whether it's organic or inorganic is what matters to them.

    Kinda like a mechanic, whether it's a Chevy or a Nissan, most mechaniocs just don't care. All they care about is getting work.

    I know a PHD in physics teaching math in a Community college. Why? There simply is nowhere to work, contrary to what G Dubyah W suggestes.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Scientist

    If you read the original news article, it says...
    "Ms. Bell had just graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 1998 with a doctorate in chemistry when she was recruited by H-P. Having studied mostly substances that cause cancer, she was surprised that the company wanted her to study something entirely different: ink."

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Timothy McDonald, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 2:26pm

    Cancer research

    If the switch from cancer research to HP is in question, shouldn't we say that we should pay the cancer researcher MORE rather than removing the HP job. If society values scientists, then we have to spend the money to support their work.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Greg, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 2:40pm

    Not calling you a liar, but do you have a source for that "80% of their profits are from ink" statistic? I only ask because it's totally outrageous, and I'd like a direct source with more information before I start telling people about that.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    LawNerd, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 2:46pm

    Ignorant OP, #7 B.S.

    "This story demonstrates how counterproductive a system is that rewards companies for spending so much time and effort filing and defending patents."

    The original post demonstrates complete ignorance of IP law, to say nothing of free market economics (as does post #7).

    The basis for patents and trademarks comes from the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8:

    "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

    Our Founding Fathers, wiser than Joe and PO'd, understood that a means of securing rights to profit actually promotes research, development, and advancement. While it may cause hardships and seemingly amoral behavior for a time, in the long term this system's benefits far outweigh its flaws. As proof I merely must point to electricity, telephones, flight . . .

    Sure, all of these things are products of a "counterproductive" system.

    As for the illogical leap regarding cancer research: It's a bitch not living in a communistic society where people are assigned their career path, isn't it?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    pamela, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 2:52pm

    Re:

    It's in the article:

    "In fiscal 2005, H-P made more than 80% of its $5.6 billion in operating profit from ink and toner supplies, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co."

     

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  22.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Re: Cancer...

    If you banned patents, pharmaceutical companies would no longer have any financial reason to invest in R&D, so they probably wouldn't.
    Not a good way to cure anything...


    This is flat out, provably false. Many countries did not have pharmaceutical patents until recently. I suggest you look at the history of Italy before you claim that without patents, pharma wouldn't do any research. There were now pharmaceuitcal patents in Italy until 1978. Before that, it had a thriving pharma industry (one of the largest in the world). It created plenty of new drugs and was a big exporter as well. Competition and the market drove the companies to spend on new pharmaceuticals.

    In 1978, mainly due to pressure from foreign pharma companies, patents were put in place, and much of the Italian pharma industry died off.

    So, sorry, but pharma patents do not necessarily increase incentives for R&D. There's evidence they may decrease it.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    zazie, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:04pm

    An intersting point about retail ink...

    Not to say that my store is the case for the entire market but working at staples, I have notced that 9 times out of 10, you can reccomend the store brand ink until you are blue in the face, and people still INSIST on the HP brand ink. They must be doing something right... me I prefer to simply use the OEM ink because when something goes wrong, I have nobody to blame but HP!

     

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  24.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:09pm

    Re: Ignorant OP, #7 B.S.

    LawNerd,


    The original post demonstrates complete ignorance of IP law, to say nothing of free market economics (as does post #7).


    Hmm. I'd challenge that statement.

    The basis for patents and trademarks comes from the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8: '

    Indeed they do. So, if the patent system is having a *detrimental impact* on promoting the progress of science and the useful arts, isn't that an issue? It would seem to be unconstitutional...

    Our Founding Fathers, wiser than Joe and PO'd, understood that a means of securing rights to profit actually promotes research, development, and advancement. While it may cause hardships and seemingly amoral behavior for a time, in the long term this system's benefits far outweigh its flaws. As proof I merely must point to electricity, telephones, flight . . .


    Our founding fathers understood that there was a big tradeoff involved... which is why Thomas Jefferson was very much against granting patents in all but the rarest of cases. His fear was exactly what we're finding now. The system is being used to slow down economic advancements.

    You claim that the post doesn't understand market economics, yet the patent system should scare anyone with an accurate understanding of market economics. After all, it creates a gov't sponsored monopoly -- and we all learned in economics that monopolies are inefficient.

    As for your "proof" of electricity, telephones and flight.. look at the details of all of those cases, and it becomes clear that the "patent" issue often represented more of a problem. In the case of the phone, there was a race to the patent office, and that helped delay real competition and innovation in the market. In the case of flight, the gov't had to threaten the Wrights to finally allow innovation. Using those as examples of the patent system helping are just ridiculous.

    In those cases there was a real market for those products, and there was no market failure that would suggest the gov't should step in and grant a monopoly. Instead, the market could reward those who came up with the innovation.

    So, despite your claims, I think your own statements support that the original post brought up some very valid points about problems in the patent system, both on the IP front and the economics front.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    glitch, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:11pm

    seems appropriate

    IMHO, hp is a cancer [HP = Horrible Products]

    i have not owned an overpriced HP anything n almost 20 years.

    aside from that, it is quite a while since i have owned an ink jet printer. $30 for a shot glass of liquid, and can't even get a bzz...lol

    as far as the lady, cut her a break for gawds sake !!!

    she, like most, went where the money and benefits were....i doubt she took an oath like dr's or nurses do

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Stan, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:20pm

    Re: Cancer...

    "You really want to cure diseases and cancer?? Make it so that no one can patent medical research or drugs!"

    Who would pay you to do the research?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Hero, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:21pm

    your all stupid

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Scientist

    perhaps because s/he is doing ink instead of cancer? Just a stupid though, of course ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Jim, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:29pm

    HP Way Gone Away

    HP was a great company at one time - I was devoted employee for 20 years... back when the company was about innovation and contributing to society. The company after Carly is just another bloated corporation interested only in the equity valuation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:32pm

    cure cancer? are you crazy? what would all the cancer doctors do? you guys are so selfish

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    DittoBox, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 3:41pm

    Re: better application of time

    Perhaps.

    Then again Cancer Research is...well...Cancer Research. It's a highly specific field, unlike software development which entails everything from writing firmware for computerized watches to writing high-level scripts for database management.

    She's a chemist. You're a Software Developer.

    Her main field of knowledge is cancer research, a specialized field which 99% percent of the time indicates that the final goal is eradicate $ORGAN cancer. Generally a non-commercial field or at least one with an end purpose of "doing good".

    Your's on the other hand is communication technology and software development (assumed from your comments and website), which is 99% of the time used for commercial purposes.

    I agree with you for the most part, and do feel it was a "cheap shot". But then again your analogy is pretty flawed.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Joe, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 4:08pm

    Cancer Research

    I think some of the people who found the cancer line to be a 'low blow' or a 'cheap shot' may have missed the point. I'm not saying everyone should go into a high-minded area like cancer research, or that she's wrong for pursuing her career in the manner she wanted. However, if she had any skills at all in cancer research (I assume she was somewhat skilled, since HP courted her), it's a little depressing, that opening up a lab to help launch patent litigation was what her talents went to. But, considering the incentives created by the existing patent system, it's not surprising that her current line of work turned out to be the most lucrative opportunity.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Haywood, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 4:41pm

    what's needed is the Linux printer

    A little dose of open source would do wonders for the printer industry. I tire of their antics, Canon sells printer with replaceable heads, which would be wonderful if they didn't cost within a few $ of a new Printer. Lexmarks are so cheap and the cartridges so expensive that people fill the landfill with them & just buy a new printer.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Annoying Bastard, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 5:16pm

    Joe, you're not doing yourself any favors...

    Seriously...

    If you were trying to make a point, you completely undermined yourself.

    If you don't want your posts to go off topic, try sticking to your original point.

    Otherwise, you'll continue to look like an ass.

    Better luck next time, buddy.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Sohrab, Aug 29th, 2006 @ 5:45pm

    I think everybody is missing the point....the point is not really scientists working for HP patent vs Scientisits who decided to work for Cancer treatment

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous of Course, Aug 30th, 2006 @ 10:54am

    Re: Cancer research

    Or pay an ink researcher less?

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous of course, Aug 30th, 2006 @ 11:05am

    Re:

    "your all stupid"

    And all your base are belong to us!

    Y'all stupid, you should have used you're
    not your.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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