HP declares legal war on makers of alternative printer cartridges

HP declares legal war on makers of alternative printer cartridges

Summary: HP has reached settlements with two companies in Poland that make replacement cartridges for its printers, and is taking a third to court.


HP has upped the ante in its fight against producers of cheap replacement ink cartridges in Poland. The tech giant has reached settlements with two such producers and is suing a third saying it is infringing on HP's patents.

HP has started its legal offensive a couple of months ago, in a move that mirrors legal actions taken by the company in Spain last year. "The development and taking to market of innovating products is the core business of HP," the company said in a statement. "We have to take legal steps to defend our original technology." HP claims alternative replacement cartridges made by the companies violate one of its patents covering loading cartridges into printers.

The actions taken by the OEM has already seen some results. Action, from Krakow, and AB, which operates from the Polish cities of Warsaw and Wroclaw, have both agreed to stop selling the products which HP says infringe on its patents. Besides ceasing sales of the offending cartridges, Action has agreed to cover part of the legal costs HP has incurred, while AB has agreed to discard any of the offending cartridges it holds in storage. Only one week ago, AB was named 'distributor of the year' 2012 by HP.

A third company, Black Point, has refused to settle with HP and will now be taken to court. The CEO of Black Point, Piotr Kolbusz, denies his company has done anything illegal. "Our company neither distributes nor holds in storage products that violate patent law held by printer manufacturers,” he says in a statement on the Black Point website. "This has been confirmed by the local bailiff who was accompanied by an HP representative in June 2012. We will reject the accusations of HP during the ongoing process."

Alternative replacement cartridges have been a pain for printer manufacturers for years now, with many generating their profit from ink sales rather than printer sales. An original HP cartridge is sold in Polish online stories at around 80 zloties (€20), while an alternative goes for half that. Per unit, manual cartridge refilling is even cheaper.

It remains to be seen if the consumer will suffer as a result of the HP lawsuit, Pawel Polcyn, one of the owners of online store Drukuj24.pl, told Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. "The prices for printers are so low [in many cases a printer costs even less than new cartridges], that it isn't a problem to replace it for one that does offer alternative cartridges.

"People who want to print cheap will look for systems that offer good quality cartridges, and there is no shortage of those the market."

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Legal, Printers, EU

Michiel van Blommestein

About Michiel van Blommestein

Michiel van Blommestein is a Dutch journalist who has been living in Poland since 2010. He worked as a technology journalist in the Netherlands before moving to Poland to work as a regular correspondent for various news outlets. He still loves the bits and bytes though.

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  • Yawn

    HP's been doing this for years; it's wrong, and it should be illegal. At the very least, HP's printer cartridge racket is a poster child for tightening standards for granting patents.
    John L. Ries
    • I don't think it should be illegal

      I don't like it either, but that doesn't mean I think it should be illegal. It does mean I'm likely to look elsewhere for my printers though. I don't need Congress to do that.
      • It's restraint of trade...

        ...and given the difficulties individuals face in resisting efforts by large corporations to monopolize markets, I do think it appropriate for the U.S. Congress and other national parliaments to enact laws ensuring free markets (free!=unregulated).
        John L. Ries
      • Re: I don't need Congress to do that.

        You needed Congress to pass the patent laws under which HP is suing.
  • Note to Self:

    Add HP to my list of "Do Not Buy From".

    Mine is still a pretty short list - just three companies that I dislike for its business/product/ecosystem practices: Apple, Sony, and now HP.
    • Wish There Was an Edit Button!

      The last sentence should have read "... dislike for [their] business/product/ecosystem practices...".
  • And Further More...

    Not only is the Edit feature missing since the largely eye candy Remake. If you click View More Articles, and then the Back Button from a read article, you lose your place completely, as you're returned to Go.
    How often have I scrolled sets of View M ore Articles and then clicked Back only to having to scroll and scroll till I manually find my place from memory.
    What makes me wonder if the mindset at ZDNet is arrogancy, is that there is no mechanism for feedback on these issues.
    This appears to be the best hope we have to get thro'. Not worthy of the business savvy and technical expertise available at ZDNet.
    • RE: View more articles

      You are dead on about going back to the first page with the back button. A lot of times I wait a day or two in between reading ZDNET and need to hit view more pages 7 or 8 times to pick up where I left off. This "feature" makes catching up on tech news on ZDNET take 3 or 4 times as long as it should be. A utterly preventable waste of time.
  • horrible

    I bet hp charges more per ounce of ink than gold. The cartridges, ink and toner, don't last and are compared to products from others. No wonder hp is choking.
  • Printer cartridges

    Hey, they are in the business of selling ink and cartridges. Their complaint, if I understand correctly, is about other company cartridges, not the ink. I've refilled HP cartridges many times at a cost far less than buying cheap cartridges that too often fail in the middle of a project. If you do not agree that HP and other OEMs have a right to make a profit, then who will build and sell the printers, often at a leader loss, for you to complain about. Not every thing can be free or undercut without consequences.
  • HP Declares War

    I am a fanboy of HP Printers but i will toss my HP printer in the trash before i spend money on HP cartridges. I can buy the 4 cartridges for my printer for the cost of 1 genuine HP. In Canada we get ripped even worse than in the US.

    The ones i buy are refilled and last longer and work just as well as the genuine cartridges.

    HP sucks again !