Can OEMs and Non-OEMs Peacefully Co-exist?

By Adam Haigh //  

There are probably as many answers to this question in the title as there are companies involved. However, if one is able to step back from the inside for a minute, it is likely that the answer may in fact be yes, but that certain things have to happen and several factors are in play

Patents may be one of the most important factors which will come into play over the next few years. As anyone who has studied the remanufacturing industry knows, patents have been at the center of many controversies in recent times, especially with ink cartridges. Some companies, such as Kodak, have used patent infringement lawsuits as a means to generate revenue for their company.

Other companies, like San Diego, CA-based Memjet, have always aggressively pursued patents and now hold upwards of 3,000 with many more still pending. While this is not an inexpensive pursuit, there have also not been any litigation between Memjet and third-parties. This lack of litigation may be due to the fact that cartridges are really where the money is made in the printing industry. For instance, it has been proven that it can sometimes be cheaper to buy a whole new printer than it can be to buy a new set of cartridges.

Most of the major OEMs that exist today have had to deal with patent lawsuits over their cartridges, and not just one time or with one company. Further, this type of litigation never appears to be either simple or quick. The United States International Trade Commission(USITC) is responsible for adjudicating on these matters and while most often times the OEM wins versus the smaller companies that do the infringing, sometimes cases last for several months if not a year or longer.

While a cartridge in and of itself may appear to be a simple device, there are actually many different parts. For starters, the print head where the nozzles which fire ink are located may be inside the cartridge itself, or situated inside the printer. The nozzles themselves have inside them ink chambers, a resistor to control how quickly the ink flows, walls or channels that guide the ink to the paper, and then the nozzle plate which has the holes through which the ink is fired.

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