Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

HP Tells Retailers They're Infringing Patents By Refilling Ink Cartridges

from the any-way-possible-to-stop-the-competition dept

The various makers of inkjet printers have been particularly nasty in trying to protect their market. As most of you know, they have a razor/razor blades model of doing business. They sell the printers cheap, and then load up on selling you expensive ink. The ink, you'll recall, costs more than expensive perfume, whiskey, or vintage champagne. Apparently, if you filled an Olympic-sized swimming pool with inkjet ink at retail prices, it would cost you $6 billion (yes, with a b). On top of that, there have been reports (disputed by the printer companies) that many of the ink cartridges are designed to "expire" before the ink is actually gone -- boosting revenue even more.

With that in mind, you can understand why the companies involved may pull out all the stops to prevent any competition in selling ink for their printers. A favorite of the companies is to use any and all forms of intellectual property laws to stop competitive sales. Lexmark was a big fan of using the DMCA to claim a competitor was violating copyright law. Luckily the courts slapped down that clear misuse of the DMCA (multiple times). So, without copyright law, how about trademark violations for those selling "unauthorized" printer products? However, in recent months, it's been patents that the printer firms have focused on. Epson went after a bunch of retailers who sold refilled ink cartridges claiming patent infringement, and successfully convinced some to stop. Now, it's HP's turn. The company already went after those who actually refill the cartridges, but now they've decided to go after big name retailers who will refill your cartridges for you. Specifically, they're targeting Walgreens and Office Max -- though, they say they're coming to an agreement. It's hard to see how anyone could get a patent on refilling an ink cartridge, but this is a clear example of simply trying to kill off any competition, rather than promote innovation.

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  1. identicon
    fanboy13, 22 Jun 2006 @ 1:36pm

    "What the HELL are you guys printing so much for?"

    its much more easier, comfortable, and legible to type and print than writing things down. ;)

    we were told and we were looking forward that everything will be "paperless" before 2k yet, we are all afraid to have "intel inside" embedded on our right hands.

    "Typically, Epson and HP know what they are doing when it comes to ink technology compared to some Tawain ink maker that gets all their ink from the same drum for EVERY printer. When your pinter becomes clogged and print quality drops, don't blame Epson or HP when your using cheap 3rd party ink."

    i think that is no-brainer. imagine, they can make the inks that dry-up with little exposure from air.

    and why will we blame epson or hp? isn't it explicitly said that not using genuine inks will void the warranty? people who will take the risk of using 3rd-party are responsible and well knowledgeable enough that it will void the warranty under the the category "physical damage" in their warranty cards. anyways, we can always purchase brand-new printers for lesser cost than repair, and much less hassle than waiting for turn-around times plus the uncertainty if the printer could be fixed or not. you will also get a step-up model from your old printer at the cost of its genuine ink.

    if they'll do it the old way, everyone will happy to use their products.

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