See also “Leveraging IP“.
Epson, Ink, Patents
Epson is one step closer to closing the books on a case against third-party ink cartridge manufacturers that make and sell products to work with Epson printers. The company has won a preliminary ruling saying that 24 aftermarket print cartridge manufacturers do indeed infringe on Epson’s patents, and they face orders that would bar them from selling the infringing products in the US.
See, here’s what happens. If you design an innovative laser printer, you can patent its design. But that would not stop some competitor from making ink cartridges to work with it. Just like if you buy a rifle, you can buy bullets from anyone.
But printer manufacturers like HP and Epson make their money on the ink, not the printers. I don’t think they even deny this. So they hate it when you buy a bargain basement generic ink cartridge or pay someone to refill yours. They want you to buy their cartridges only. So what these companies do is this. They intentionally complicate the design of the cartridge and file patents on it. They make their base printer such that it will only work with a cartridge that has the patented devices in it. Voila—they can now stop people from competing with them on ink. Beautiful example of the free market, is it not?