HP declares legal war on makers of alternative printer cartridges

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."