HP Cracks Down On Ink Refills

    June 22, 2006

You might want to think twice before refilling an ink cartridge; according to Hewlett-Packard, that act may be a patent violation. The company is going after retailers Walgreens and Office Max for the “offense.” Epson and Lexmark have taken similar actions in the past.

Printer ink, as it is packaged in brand-name cartridges, is notorious for being one of the most expensive liquids in the world. As reported by Techdirt, printer ink “costs more than expensive perfume, whiskey, or vintage champagne.” Alternatives to buying new cartridges can save consumers a good deal of money; eliminating those options would direct that money back to the manufacturing companies.

This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has occurred. Lexmark has been known to claim competitors were in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA); the judge who ruled on the matter disagreed.

“If we were to adopt Lexmark’s reading of the statute, manufacturers could potentially create monopolies for replacement parts . . . . Congress did not intend to allow the DMCA to be used offensively in this manner,” the court ruled, according to Techdirt.

Epson has been more successful in its endeavors. By suing them, it convinced some retailers to stop carrying off-brand ink cartridges.

No need to run out and stock up on ink, though (maybe). Techdirt also stated that Hewlett-Packard, Walgreens, and Office Max “say they’re coming to an agreement.” Hopefully it’s an arrangement that consumers and businesses won’t find too damaging to their pocketbooks.

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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.