With the news this week that Kodak is finally taking up the challenge and will start selling inkjet printers with much cheaper ink than its printing rivals, you might think that some of the other printing companies would stop playing hardball and start looking for ways to provide much more reasonable prices. Not so, apparently. HP, the printer leader, has been notoriously aggressive in going after anyone who makes compatible ink cartridges for its printers. The company actually filed patent infringement suits against ink cartridge refilling companies, claiming that their refilled ink violated HP patents. This isn't that surprising, since the company apparently has a team of scientists whose entire job is (no, seriously) analyzing competitive ink cartridges to see if they're infringing any HP patents. The next step, obviously, is to go after the retailers. HP has notified a bunch of retailers that by selling those competitive cartridges, they too may be violating patents. Apparently, that hasn't been all that convincing either, so HP's supposedly moved on to using a carrot, rather than a stick. Alison Bradley writes in to point to reports that suggests HP is creating "marketing deals" that require retailers not to sell compatible ink cartridges. Staples is already phasing out its house brand of HP compatible ink cartridges, though it claims its just because HP has convinced Staples that HP printers work better with HP's own ink. Others say that there's almost no way Staples would do that without a hefty payment from HP (and the fact that the Staples house brand remains for other printers seems to support that). While HP may be able to squeeze more margin for a little while, this seems like a poor long-term strategy. All it's going to do is convince people to stop buying HP printers, and go to competitors who offer reasonably priced ink.
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