Printer Cartridge Lawsuits – One Down, One to Go?

23 Feb ’05

Hot on the heels of news that the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal has denied Lexmark’s request that it reconsider lifting an injunction under the DMCA on a manufacturer of generic ink cartridges, news that a new lawsuit has been filed alleging that HP printers are secretly programmed to expire stale-dated cartidges.

I can’t help but think back to my recent post about printer manufacturers’ plans to institute region coding on their ink cartidges.

A quick note to manufacturers:  If you’re spending more money on your lawyers than you are building a sustainable business model fuelled by customer passion for your products, close the doors, put up a sign saying "Closed Due to Lack of Imagination", and find a can full of pencils for your next job.

Printer manufacturers created this problem by modelling their businesses based on cheap printers and expensive ink.  Problem is, ink cartridges are a commodity, and the cheapest guy wins – impossible competitive ground for the HP’s and Lexmarks of the world, it would seem.  Their answer, post-DMCA, has been to build nominal IP into the cartridge and then claim that reverse-engineering that IP is contra-DMCA.  Please, someone find the person who championed that idea and take him out to the woodshed ….

If you want to make lots of money selling printers, make great printers – printers that stand up and sing – and charge more for them.  Expensive ink costs customers.  Believing that you are cheating them of their money through your use of lawyers and lawsuits to keep your market protected, and believing that you are not dealing with them honestly, they are practically standing in line, waiting for the next great idea to come along, and when it does, your $99 printer will not seem like much of a reason to stay with you, and they will abandon you in a heartbeat.

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