We reported back in May 2011 that ETIRA (European Toner and Inkjet Remanufacturers Association) had noted in uptick in ink cartridge counterfeiting across Europe. The story broke yesterday that HP was pursuing action against several Spanish resellers for infringing on patents for some of their inkjet cartridges, says The Recycler.
The documents distributed allege that the Spanish companies have violated patents relating to the printhead on the 21, 22, 27, 28, 56 and 57 series cartridges. The similarities can best be noticed with the aid of a magnifying glass, and HP believes that it was an intentional infringement. By attempting to sell these cartridges, the companies have violated HP’s patents according to the provision of Article 50 (of the Patent Information Service) and the U.S. Patent Act (35 USCS Sects. 1 – 376). Additionally, some of the cartridges brought into question are labeled as “‘remanufactured’”. This falsehood has the possibility of enticing eco-conscious consumers to purchase them, when in fact they are not remanufactured at all. Under the Unfair Competition Law, this practice is considered to be an act of deception.
In a study published in 2010 by Sahil Sahni, Avid Boustani, Timothy Gutowski, Steven Graves of MIT’s Sloan School of Management found among their sources that in 2003, “67 million cartridges were sold in the US of which approximately 27% were refurbished cartridges.” If you do the math, 27% works out to just over 18 million remanufactured cartridges. That figure alone (and that was 9 years ago, and in good economic times) should provide some level of recognition for remanufacturers.
While the importers of these cartridges were not the manufacturers of them, nonetheless they are held responsible for the violation of HP’s intellectual property established with the patents. The companies have seven days upon receipt of the letter to:
“acknowledge the OEM’s intellectual property; immediately cease the importation, introduction in the market, offering, marketing and/or export of inkjet cartridges covered by this requirement; and remove all existing stock they hold in their facilities and require their distributors and their customers to return their units, to be sent to the OEM for destruction.”
Additionally, the companies who imported the cartridges are responsible for removing and images or references to these cartridges from their websites, catalogs, and marketing materials. They are to disclose all of the information they have about the company who manufactured the products in question as well as report how many units they “imported, introduced, offered, marketed, and/or exported to and present, both in Spain and abroad; and agree to indemnify the OEM for damages.”
According to the Secretary General of ETIRA, Vincent van Dijk, “‘We have always warned distributors and reselllers in Europe trading these products that they would be taken to court and pay heavy fines if they do not respect legitimate patents. If you play with fire, you will get burned.’” HP is not the first company to have to resort to legal action in Europe. Samsung had to take similar action last month against a company. Unfortunately, HP and Samsung are likely to not be the only ones who have to undertake such action. The actions of companies that choose to infringe patents undermine the efforts of all the companies who develop, through their own research, legitimate technologies and products to allow consumers to save money.
Source: "HP Begins Suit Against Spanish Resellers" BY ADAM HAIGH, Editor at CastleInk.com; Reprint with permission. For more details, please visit: www.castleink.com