Following on from the post last week about Canon’s lawsuit against a refiller, it seems to me that we are going to see a lot more aggressive legal action from the big four printer manufacturers. Last month Lexmark reported a nearly 50% drop in profit, due mostly to price discounting. Epson has also reported a loss of over $120 million because of poor performance in their LCD division. Epson expects sales in their printing division to be lower this year.

While the companies don’t say that refilling has hurt their businesses, they must be thinking how to get back the 15-20% market share that refilling and compatible cartridges has. In the past both Canon and Epson have for the most part ignored refillers, with HP repeatedly saying it’s the ‘consumers choice, but HP is better’. Lexmark has been aggressive with their actions against toner remanufacturers (see info on their DMCA lawsuit) but has left ink refilllers alone.

Epson has taken action against manufacturers of aftermarket ink cartridges but only on a small scale. With the huge profits at stake these actions will only increase as it makes it worthwile for the printer companies to win back market share and badly needed revenue. With the explosion of digital photo printing expected to take place over the next year or two the market, and potential profits, will get bigger and bigger. The big four will not want to relinquish a bigger piece of the pie to refillers – in fact they will want to make the pie, and their piece, bigger.

It would be far better the big four used the consumer education carrot rather than the litigation stick to increase their market share. Refill inks are cheaper for a reason – refillers do not spend millions of dollars a year on research and development to make better inks, but the printer manufacturers do. Genuine inks last longer, work better and are better for your printer. Refill ink cannot, by it’s very nature (because genuine is patented so cannot be exactly copied), match genuine.

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