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.
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