Palo Alto (CA) – Simply refilling your ink cartridges at one of the increasingly popular “refilling service stations” in retail stores is a cheaper alternative to buying actual replacement cartridges. However, HP today announced that it has “discovered” patent infringements by Walgreens and Office Max and is working with the companies to “resolve” the issue.
It’s no secret that printer manufacturers today make little money with printer sales, but rather with sales of so-called consumables such as ink. Third-party ink suppliers always have been a target of original printer and ink suppliers and at least in that light it comes as little surprise that Hewlett-Packard (HP) is going after ink refilling stations in retail stores.
HP said that “inks found in both Walgreens and Office Max refilling service stations [in multiple stores] infringe HP patents.” According to a statement, HP is in contact with both retail chains and is “working toward resolution.”
“HP protects its intellectual property wherever infringements are found,” said Pradeep Jotwani, senior vice president for HP’s Supplies, Imaging and Printing Group in a prepared statement. “Decades of research and development investment by HP have resulted in more than 4,000 patents related to printing supplies, allowing us to deliver the superior quality and reliable printing experience associated with original HP supplies.”
According to HP, the patent infringements at Office Max and Walgreens were “discovered as part of ongoing worldwide testing and enforcement efforts.” The same initiative has uncovered ink patent infringements by other companies that offer generic ink supplies through refilling stations or private label brands, the company said.
While very few Walgreens store offer refilling services at this time and is still in a ramp-up phase, Office Max has rapidly deployed such stations over the past year. Depending on the printer model, the savings over the purchase of a new printer cartridge can be substantial: According to a sample research conducted by TG Daily in the Chicago area, black cartridges typically sell in the $23-$29 range, while the retailer charges a $15 flat fee to refill any HP cartridge. Color cartridges can cost as much as $40 – almost twice the refilling fee of $23.
Representatives from Hewlett-Packard, Walgreens, and Office Max were not available to comment on the matter.