Want to know why it would cost $5.9 billion
to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool with printer ink? Perhaps look to our beloved US patent laws. Five years ago, we pointed out that HP was claiming that refill ink cartridges for its printers violated its patents
, and that it was building up a team of scientists
not to invent anything new -- but to analyze the chemical makeup of competitor's ink to see if they could hit them with a patent infringement lawsuit.
Every so often, we hear another bunch of claims from HP about ink refillers infringing on its patents, and just a few weeks ago, we heard that HP was asking the US ITC to block the import
of refill ink cartridges from foreign competitors, claiming patent infringement.
Not to be left out, it looks like HP competitor Lexmark is getting into the game as well, and has also asked the ITC to bar the import of ink refills from 24 companies
. Lexmark is also suing those same companies in court, showing once again how the ITC loophole
gives companies two bites at the same apple.
Of course, it's fascinating to see Lexmark jump into the patent infringement game on ink refills. After all, it famously tried and failed
to use the DMCA and copyright law to stop ink refills. It was right after that when HP started using patent claims, so it looks like it took a bit of time for Lexmark to get together a patent plan.
Of course, would it be nice if, rather than relying on government granted monopolies to block perfectly legitimate competition, these companies actually competed in the marketplace? Or is that too much to ask?