There has been a lot of talk within our industry in the last few weeks; rumours have been floating around about HP’s latest patents and some printer cartridge refilling/remanufacturing companies I have spoken to are actually getting quite concerned about the impact these patents could possibly have on the industry as a whole.
For those who are not fully up to date on the recent developments, HP recently applied for and have been granted new patents that protects the refilling of new and used HP printer cartridges, the refilling process of ink cartridges using different vacuum pressures, the refilling of HP cartridges through the print-head nozzles (backwards refilling) and refilling of HP ink tanks.
On face value this application does look quite damning for the industry, it’s quite possible that HP and other OEM’s such as Canon who incidentally are following suit with HP are strengthening their legal position prior to enforcing these patents.
As our regular readers will know we have a contact within HP’s PR team, HP are keen to see factual industry news reported rather than hearsay which is why they are usually happy to provide us with information where possible, I asked HP what their intentions where by applying for these patents and is it aimed at eliminating the refilling industry, below is HP’s official response to that question, published ‘as is’ and totally unedited.
“This is not a new practice. HP invented inkjet printing and we’ve filed for patents related to our technology for years.
Like many other companies, HP regularly obtains patents for its proprietary designs, technologies, and processes to assert and protect its intellectual property within its industry. HP was recently awarded patents relating to specific design and manufacturing elements of an inkjet cartridge ink tank as well as specific methods and technologies for introducing ink into new and used inkjet cartridges.
"We are not familiar with all the ways that third-parties refill and remanufacture our Original HP ink cartridges and cannot speculate on any tangential impact these patents may have on their business. We do know that refilling and remanufacturing is still permitted except as it might infringe on these specific patent claims.
We believe Original HP ink cartridges are a critical differentiator in our overall print system. The process used to manufacture our cartridges is critical to delivering the superior quality, reliability and value that our customers expect. As we continue to innovate in this area, we obtain patents to protect the investment we are making to improve the performance of our products.”
Now I must point out this stage that to a degree I do agree with this statement, HP are clearly pointing out that they invented the inkjet technology and have a right to protect it, which is correct and unarguable, to blatantly copy something that someone has innovated and invested in is simply theft but where our paths part is on the subject of refilling, I and many like me feel that once I have chosen to buy a brand then the item is then mine, and if I want to save myself a few pounds by having a refill then I should be able to unhindered by any type of messages flashing at me from the printer or by any patent that won’t allow it. Surely the brand owner should be happy that I bought their brand over others in the first place, be happy with that and leave me to refill if I want to.
In the statement HP have gone on to say that they cannot really comment on the impact this action may have on “Third party companies who refill HP cartridges” which in its self is not very reassuring if you own or work for one of these companies, it seems quite obvious to me that IF, and I use IF for a reason, it is possible for HP to eliminate third party refilling that it would have a massive domino effect on the industry and you don’t need a big business brain to work that one out.
It’s worth pointing out that HP have not come out and aggressively announced all-out war on the refilling industry but there are a lot of people who are of the opinion that HP and other OEM’s are in a better position with these patents should they choose to.
Quite how HP and the other OEM’s intend to police these patents remains to be seen but I assure our readers of this, we will be keeping a close eye on this and will update you as and when things develop.