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Brother wins significant ruling in fight against ink cartridge patent infringements

Issue 0916/1 – Brother has won confirmation from the Düsseldorf Court of Appeal (28th May 2009), upholding two previous preliminary injunctions against Pelikan and German Hardcopy for infringement of utility models held by Brother. In addition, another preliminary injunction was awarded against the companies that overturned a decision by the District Court in Düsseldorf.

All printer manufacturers keep a close eye on the third party supplies industry because of the potential for supplies manufactured by the third party to infringe patents because cartridge designs are copied rather than the result of technical research to develop a compatible cartridge that does not infringe patents.

Brother LC900 cartridgeBrother LC900 cartridge

Brother’s older inkjet cartridges in particular are based on designs that are very easy to refill and, because they are merely ink tanks, not incorporating the print head, are easily copied. However, the ink valve is critical to the successful delivery of ink to the print head and its design would constitute intellectual property. Therefore, while refilling of an original cartridge is fair game, copying a cartridge for third party manufacture is not.

Because printer manufacturers have a high dependence on supplies sales to cover the cost of printer development and manufacture, any illegal tactics used by third-parties to undermine sales of original supplies have to be taken seriously. Most commonly these involve patent infringements or counterfeiting – see also the accompanying article .

Unfortunately, there is no way for a user to know whether a third party item infringes patents but the cost to the printer industry of policing the retail market, of course, impacts on the Total Cost of Printing for users, just as poor third party products impact on print efficiency and quality.

Pelikan has already fallen foul of Hewlett-Packard for infringement of patents.

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