This Week in Imaging: No End in Sight for Printer/Copier Consumables’ War
For anyone who’s followed the printer/copier consumables’ market over the years like we have, one of the most incongruous news stories this week was reports of China’s Ninestar suing another Chinese company for alleged patent infringement of Ninestar ink cartridges designed for use with inkjet printers made by HP, which probably wishes both companies would go to the bottom of the ocean and stay there (I exaggerate of course).
We can undoubtedly expect more of this, as Ninestar (parent company of Lexmark) is now stating it will protect what it calls its own intellectual property rights. Meanwhile, like the eternal battle between good and evil, the battle between printer OEMs and toner and ink cartridge third-party new-build makers, remanufacturers, and outright counterfeiters will likely continue until there are no more printers and copiers. And the speed at which third parties produce alternative consumables seems to be getting faster. For instance, just weeks after HP Inc. introduced its new toner-tank Neverstop laser printer, a third-party (Union Technology International) quickly introduced alternative supplies.
In response to these third parties, back in 1994, the printer/copier OEMs first fought back with the establishment of the Imaging Supplies Coalition, which is dedicated to fighting imaging-supplies counterfeiting and patent infringement, and was founded by Canon, Lexmark, and HP. Since then, to deter third parties, OEMs have also used hard-to-copy integrated chips, firmware upgrades, patent-infringement lawsuits, and counterfeit raids conducted around the globe with the help of local law enforcement.
Since the global consumables market is worth billions – estimated to be worth some $33 billion by next year, according to this report from Technavio – we can’t expect this fight to end anytime soon. Until the last printer or MFP comes off the factory line – something not likely to happen for several generations – lawyers, courts, test labs, and analysts will continue to wage a war of words, lawsuits, tests, and firmware downloads over the ink or toner you put in your printer.
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