Taking Care of Business1 Apr, 2014 By: David Gibbons
Remanufacturers of printer cartridges may not have been keeping their eye on the ball. And it might not be entirely their fault. While the recent Canon complaints against the aftermarket over patent issues has involved many companies making newly built cartridges, at least two companies are remanufacturing only—operating under the “permissible repair” doctrine. And yet Canon believes they are still infringing their patents somehow.
Remanufacturers cannot afford the time, nor the expense to employ their own patent attorneys to keep a watchful eye on every new patent that is registered. Rightfully or wrongfully, they have relied on their suppliers of printer cartridge parts to do this for them.
It’s true the component suppliers have full time attorneys on the task. But surely they cannot provide this kind of service; cover and indemnification to the thousands of customers who purchase their products.
This is a wake up to the industry because the Canon suits have targeted the cartridge remanufacturers and manufacturers—not those who actually make the components. This means even small to medium sized remanufacturers must not only follow due diligence with their finances and accounting, human resources, health and safety, and research and development, but with their legal responsibilities as well.
The advent of “clones” has hurt OEM markets as well as remanufacturing markets. Consequently, the industry has become more litigious in the last five years as the OEMs rightfully protect their inventions as well as their markets. But now, seemingly, remanufacturers are being trapped in the storm.
Some tell me remanufacturers have been caught napping and have been lazy when it comes to paying attention to intellectual property rights. This may well be true for some, but in my view, it is an over-generalization. The remanufacturers caught up in this latest Canon dispute are anything but lazy. I have personally visited them. They invest heavily into work practices, engineering, research … and legal matters, too.
This is a tough industry to be in right now. The boss of one of the largest remanufacturing companies in the world told me, “The golden years are behind us—they have gone.” And yet, he and others continue to invest because there are many opportunities still available.
It’s not all gloom and doom. Many will have much more to ask and say at the RT Imaging Summit in Las Vegas in May 29 and 30—particularly during the “Open Mike” sessions. Plan on being there. It’s time to take care of business!
David Gibbons is an Australian who has been a school principal, TV and radio broadcaster, and has also run his own imaging supplies business. He is currently based in Zhuhai, China as a Director of Recycling Times Media in publishing, broadcasting and events. Visit http://www.irecyclingtimes.com