This Week in Imaging: Recovering ‘Empties’; Never-Ending Toshiba Saga; More

Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

Will the drama at Toshiba Corporation ever end?* While, as we’ve pointed out several times, Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS) is several arms’ lengths from Toshiba Corporation of Japan, none of the headlines – and this week’s involves Toshiba suing partner Western Digital – can be good for any Toshiba concern. For anyone selling TABS copier/MFPs in the United States, it most likely means explaining to customers the complicated relationship between Toshiba Corporation and TABS – none of which can be helpful when trying to sell copiers.

*Just how bad is it at Toshiba? Here’s the Financial Times: “In the past two weeks alone, Toshiba has lurched from lawsuit to counter-lawsuit with a key business ally, Western Digital; it has been told that it will be downgraded to the second section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange and kicked out of the Nikkei 225 Average; its auditor refuses to sign off on the accounts for the most recent financial year; and it has watched arguably its best hope of financial salvation — the $18bn sale of the memory chip business — being blown off course. It risks being delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and some analysts suggest it could go bankrupt.”

We discussed the landmark Impression Products vs. Lexmark International case several weeks ago, and the takeaway from that was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that in the United States: 1) patent-holder rights are exhausted once a product is sold, but 2) contracts aren’t voided when products are sold. That #2 seemed to indicate that Lexmark can still enforce its Return Cartridge Program, under which Lexmark sells toner cartridges for a discount, in exchange for customers returning depleted toner cartridges back to Lexmark.

This week in a patent-infringement case in The Netherlands, the Dutch court ruled in favor of a remanufacturer of HP ink cartridges, but also appeared to indicate that there was hope for OEMs “if the consumer has agreed to limiting conditions when purchasing the printer.”

These limiting conditions could be, as with Lexmark, requiring the customer to return depleted cartridges back to the OEM. The big problem with contracting customers to return depleted cartridges back to the OEM (instead of selling them to third parties), is, would any OEM wish to sue their customers for breach-of-contract? Or, as with Impression Products vs. Lexmark International, will pursuing supplies patent-infringement become a lost cause for OEMs? While OEMs are still obtaining favorable settlements, at least overseas, with the Impression Products case, it seems the alternative may be use to use contract law to limit the supply of available empties, or, at least, convince customers that OEM supplies are demonstrably superior to third-party remanufactured supplies.

That said, it appears that HP Inc. (at least in the United States that we know of) has the best all-around solutions in place. It includes including return packaging and a pre-paid shipping label with each ink and toner cartridge purchases. For customers, the choices then are: 1) an easy and environmentally friendly way to recycle depleted cartridges via HP, or 2) find somebody that will buy your spent cartridges for a few dollars each and then can ship and/or hand-deliver them to the third-party; or 3) throw the spent cartridge away and feel guilty about the environmental effect. Many users probably choose #1 (return to HP free-of-charge) for both convenience and economy. HP’s Instant Ink program also offers a similar incentive to return depleted ink cartridges – as customers receive heavily discounted ink cartridges but in return, must send depleted ink cartridges back to HP.

Office-Imaging News

Canon Number-One Last Year in U.S. A3 Copier/MFP Sales – Read more here.

Legal Briefs

Toshiba Sues Western Digital; Fails to Meet Self-Imposed Deadline to Sell Memory Business – Read more here.

Dutch Court Rules in Favor of Ink-Cartridge Remanufacturer in HP Patent-Infringement Case – Read more here.

Brother Claims Victory in Patent-Infringement Dispute in Germany – Read more here.

Market-Research News

Driven by MFPs, EMEA Printer Hardware Shipments Stabilize – Read more here.

Executive-Management News

Memjet Appoints Former Kodak Exec Owen General Manager – Read more here.


Private-Equity Firm Sycamore Partners to Acquire Staples for $6.9 Billion – Read more here.

South Korean Internet Company NAVER to Acquire Xerox Research Center Europe – Read more here.

Other News

AnchorNuance Communications Hit by Global Malware Attack – Read more here.

Xerox Celebrates 40th Anniversary of its First Laser Printer, the Xerox 9700 – Read more here.

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June 2017

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