Epson Succeeds In Stopping Competitors From Making Compatible Ink Cartridges

from the remind-me-not-to-buy-another-Epson-printer dept

I currently have an Epson printer that's on its last legs. While the printer has served me fine for many years, Epson has just made it abundantly clear why I should never buy another printer from them. Last February, the company went after 24 vendors of Epson-compatible ink cartridges, claiming "patent" violations for putting ink into a cartridge that works on their printers. That's clearly not in the spirit of the patent system at all, but rather a blatant attempt to keep competitors out of the market by misusing patent laws. It's obviously lucrative to Epson to do so, since the artificial scarcity the printer companies have created has inflated the price of ink to ridiculous levels (filling a swimming pool with ink would cost nearly $6 billion -- with a b), making it perhaps the most expensive liquid around. So, it's unfortunate that Epson has apparently succeeded in intimidating many of the compatible ink cartridge makers into leaving the market. Obviously, Epson thinks it's in its own best interests to limit the market so they can charge such high prices (this is the same company that has also been accused of forcing you to replace cartridges even when they still have plenty of ink -- a charge the company denies). However, it also signals to consumers that Epson printers are going to be plenty expensive to maintain and that they may be better off looking elsewhere. Certainly, many of the other printer makers are just as bad, but that should be seen as an opportunity for someone to come along and charge a much more reasonable amount for ink, and then advertise the hell out of how much money they'll save everyone.

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  1. identicon
    GadgetGav, 1 Dec 2006 @ 6:46am

    Completely within the 'spirit' of the patent syste

    I hear all the bitching about ink prices and I like it just as little as the next man, but no way is this "not in the spirit of the patent system". That patent system only exists to block competitors from your market. That is the deal:

    "The exclusive right granted to a patentee in most countries is the right to prevent or exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the claimed invention."

    In return for giving up the details of your invention, you get exclusive rights. These things are not cheap - either in development costs or patent filing costs, so if a company really has something patentable and is awarded a patent on it, they have every right to defend that patent. Why would Epson, HP or Canon put all the money into developing better printers and ink if it was just going to get copied as soon as it came out.

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