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By | Tony Smith 29th March 2005 16:13

HP sues printer-cartridge refillers

Stink over ink

HP has sued a pair of printer cartridge refillers in a bid to protect its consumables business.

Yesterday, HP filed a complaint with the US District Court of Northern California against RhinoTek, accusing the refiller of false advertising - it maintains RhinoTek's "packaging and promotional materials are calculated to give consumers the impression that defendants' cartridges are new". HP's filing requests the court order RhinoTek to make it clear that the company is selling used and refilled cartridges. It also requests RhinoTek's profits from the allegedly mis-sold products be handed over as damages.

On Friday, the printer giant sued InkCycle for allegedly violating three of its patents: 5,165,968, 5,428,383 and 5,488,402. All three centre on ways of making ink dry more quickly to colours from blurring, a process that effectively reduces the resolution of the printed image. The InkCycle complaint was filed with the US District Court of Western Wisconsin. HP said InkCycle.

The InkCycle case is likely to be settled before it comes to court. According to a News.com report, company marketing chief Brad Roderick said a settlement is expected soon. "We've been in direct communication with HP and expect a very near-term full resolution," he said.

Both cases mark the latest stage in printer vendors' ongoing struggle against companies who take old cartridges and refill them with ink, or seek to offer alternative consumables to the vendors' own. The vendors maintain their new products are better than refilled ones. That's possibly the case, but it's certainly true that their offerings are more expensive. And very profitable - as hardware prices have fallen, so vendors have been keen to maintain the price of consumables. ®

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