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 user 2007-11-19 at 11:47:00 am Views: 62
  • #21249

    Think Gasoline Is Expensive? Consider Ink
    Harold Walsh can make you feel good about paying $3.11 a gallon for gasoline.
    runs from inside the Eagle Ridge Mall in Lake Wales.
    He’s located in the Create It Scrapping store. Walsh, who retired years
    ago from copier sales, now deals in supplying ink cartridges for
    ink-jet printers.Walsh also sells “auto refill” kits for printers:
    Replacement cartridges for the printer are connected to tubes, which
    run to bottles of ink that sit next to the printer. When the bottles
    run low, simply refill them.Walsh holds up a small bottle holding about
    a teaspoon of ink. “How would you like it if you drove up to the pump
    and bought this much gas for $13?”The 3 milliliters of ink in the
    bottle, said Walsh, were all that was contained in a new printer
    cartridge purchased from a major printer company.Walsh sells a
    60-milliliter bottle of the same color ink for $8. The bottle will
    provide about 20 refills for the cartridge. Thus, the $13 cartridge can
    be refilled from the bottle with about 40 cents worth of
    ink.Conversely, buying the same amount of ink by the cartridge that is
    held in the 60-milliliter bottle would cost $260.In fact, a gallon of
    ink obtained by buying ink cartridges from name-brand printing
    companies would cost somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.”And remember,
    you don’t have to drill into the ground, suck the ink out, ship it
    half-way around the world, unload it, and refine it,” added Walsh,
    continuing with the gasoline analogy.

    It’s one of the reasons
    why third-party suppliers are selling ink and replacement cartridges -
    and one of the reasons printer-manufacturing companies are suing to put
    them out of business. In addition to courtroom action, printer
    companies often have electronic chips in their cartridges which make
    the cartridge inoperable when it runs out of ink so it can’t be
    refilled.In early 2006, Epson (owned by Seiko Corp. of Japan) filed
    complaints against 25 companies in the U.S. and United Kingdom seeking
    to bar the manufacture, import, or distribution of aftermarket ink
    cartridges in those countries.This month, Canon won a case in the
    Supreme Court of Japan that blocked imports and sales by Tokyo-based
    Recycle Assist Co. of recycled Canon ink cartridges that are refilled
    with non-Canon ink. Canon claimed the process infringed on its
    patents.But this summer, in Lexmark’s home state of Kentucky, a jury
    decided that Lexmark’s practice of the way it limited use of its toner
    cartridges “unreasonably restrained competition.” Jurors also agreed
    with the competitor’s claim that the methods used by Lexmark gave it
    the “substantial ability to exploit customers.”Darren T. Kaplan,
    partner in the Atlanta law firm of Chitwood Harney Harnes, was co-lead
    counsel in a class-action suit brought against Epson because its
    cartridges were technologically shut off while a usable supply of ink
    still remained in the cartridge.

    A settlement a year ago with
    members of the class-action suit resulted in a credit of up to $45 at
    Epson’s online store. Epson denied any wrongdoing, and said it wanted
    to keep the ink cartridges from going dry and damaging the printer’s
    print heads. Critics, however, contend the real goal of the printer
    companies is to keep the cartridges from reuse.When purchased in
    cartridges, said Kaplan, ink is among “the world’s most expensive
    liquids,” with prices approaching or equal to “exotic perfumes and rare
    wines.” He added that making ink was “old technology, because it’s been
    around forever,” but it is the “new technology” of how it’s delivered
    to paper that has made it expensive.He also said his firm has similar
    suits against nearly “every major printer manufacturer.”Keeping one
    step ahead of the electronic tricks keeps Walsh and his fellow
    resellers busy. He said codes are constantly being changed on printers
    to try to defeat the work-arounds used by third-party ink cartridges.

    “They’ve just gotten craftier over the last few years,” said Walsh.
    refill company’s Web site ( offers refill kits for
    Canon, HP, Lexmark, Compaq, Epson, and Brother. The auto-fill system
    using ink tanks can be installed in printers in less than 10 minutes;
    the systems start at around $100.The auto-fill system already installed
    on an Epson printer costs about $220, including printer.Refilling
    cartridges might involve getting some ink-stained hands. But, as Walsh
    would say, people who refill wind up with more green in their wallets.