This Week in Imaging: Foxconn-Sharp Finally Done Deal; HP-Memjet Developments

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Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

By now everyone’s likely heard that this week, Foxconn purchased a controlling, 66-percent increase in Sharp Corporation of Japan – the biggest takeover of a Japanese company ever. While the acquisition of Sharp’s LCD display business will likely be a boon for Foxconn, the million-dollar question for us is what will Foxconn do with Sharp’s copier division?

While Sharp’s copier division is healthy and has been generating profit, we’ll just have to wait-and-see if Foxconn will be interested in keeping it, or perhaps selling it. The only other copier company that might be interested in purchasing it would probably just be Samsung, which has made no bones about the fact that it wishes to be number-one in the worldwide copier market. Purchasing Sharp’s copier group would certainly be a huge boost for Samsung, but we suspect of course that the price would have to be right, and Foxconn would have to be willing to sell. Since Foxconn has stated that it will invest very significant amounts in Sharp’s copier group, however, a sale probably isn’t something it’s contemplating.

The maneuvers of HP Inc.’s legal team this week as they attempt to defend HP Inc. from a Memjet’s patent-infringement lawsuit that alleges HP infringed on Memjet page-wide inkjet printing patents are likely to be critical to the success of HP Inc. As a single company focusing on computing and printing, HP Inc. is leveraging its page-wide inkjet printing from everything to desktop Officejets for the office, PageWide models for the office and enterprise, new PageWide presses introduced this week for production printing at 1,000 feet per minute, and even HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer.

As we’ve noted before, a look back at the development of both HP and Memjet page-wide inkjet-printing shows that both were developed in a similar time frame, which isn’t unusual in technology development. HP’s lawyers will be arguing before the U.S. Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) that the USPTO was in error granting Memjet patents for its page-wide inkjet printing, arguing that the technology was already in existence with HP products. Interestingly, this is the same argument that Lexmark, Ricoh, and Xerox successfully took when taking a scan-patent case before the USPTO, arguing that MPHJ Technologies’ scan patents shouldn’t have been granted in the first place (see our story, Big Win for Lexmark, Ricoh, Xerox, as Patent Board Finds Eight of MPHJ’s Scan Patents Unpatentable). HP will essentially be arguing similarly, saying Memjet’s page-wide printing was already in existence with HP products.

We don’t have a dog in this fight, but it does seem fruitless, as there’s apparently room for both HP and Memjet in the marketplace. We also feel that Memjet would be better served if it used its resources to develop pigment-based inks that provide superior permanence versus its existing dye-based ink technology.

On the surface, it seems a bit odd that Epson America has introduced a black-only inkjet desktop MFP and printer, both appearing to be based on a color inkjet All-in-One introduced last year. However, we’re confident that Epson has done its homework and determined that there’s still room for growth for black-only printers and All-in-Ones, especially those that will have a lower Total Cost of Ownership than many toner-based counterparts.

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