Uma equipe de cientistas (e muitos, muitos advogados) foram recrutados pela HP para proteger seu "monopólio das tintas". A HP tem mais de 4 mil patentes na área, e mais de 80% de seu lucro operacional de $5.6 bilhões vem desse segmento. E ela não está nada feliz com a concorrência...


"H-P's ink-cartridge business acts as a powerful annuity for the company. The technology titan, which has a market share of 50 percent in the U.S. and more than 4,000 patents on its ink formulations and cartridge design, often sells its printers at a loss, then essentially locks customers in when they have to repeatedly come back to buy replacement ink cartridges. In fiscal 2005, H-P made more than 80 percent of its $5.6 billion in operating profit from ink and toner supplies, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

To protect this franchise, increasingly under attack from rivals, H-P could sue any ink makers it suspects are infringing on its patents. This month, it sued China's G&G Ninestar Image Co., a cartridge manufacturer, alleging G&G had violated seven H-P patents in cartridge design. The complaint also targets four online retailers. (...)

New competitors such as Cartridge World, Caboodle Cartridge Inc. and Rapid Refill Ink International Corp. refill empty ink cartridges made by H-P and others, and sell them at discounted prices of as much as 50 percent off a new cartridge in locations such as malls or downtown stores.

"A lot of people come into the ink marketplace with some assumptions that there really isn't a lot of technology" in ink, says Tuan Tran, a vice president of marketing in H-P's printing business. "We want to remind them that there is a lot of technology that goes into formulations."

Such a reminder often comes in court, where H-P is used to defending its patents on various products. In 2003, it launched a wide effort to protect its intellectual property and profit from its 33,000 patents through technology-licensing deals."

Nelson Corrêa de Toledo Ferraz

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