Right choice for Aftermarket: Technology and IP driven solutions from the beginning
Dr. Katja Dauster
Admitted as a German patent attorney since 2005 and as a European patent attorney at the European Patent Office, Dr. Katja Dauster is also registered as a European trademark attorney and European design attorney at EUIPO in Alicante.
Printer OEMs try to monopolize the aftermarket for consumables by adding mechanical, optical, and electronic keying features to the cartridges and the printers, and protecting these features using intellectual property rights, such as patents, design rights, and trademarks. However, there is a legitimate interest of the consumers in the possibility to buy cheap alternatives instead of high-priced OEM cartridges. Unfortunately, many companies have responded to this interest by putting cheap cartridges of very poor quality on the market, which have been manufactured without respecting OEM intellectual property rights and which may even ruin the printer. Therefore, some people think of compatible consumables as “infringing products” or “poor quality products” or both.
Yet, the aftermarket has matured. In the recent years, several manufacturers of compatible cartridges have disappeared. Other manufactures are aware that developing a high-quality compatible cartridge is a challenging task and have invested in their Research and Development (R & D) Department as well as in their Intellectual Property (IP) Department.
One company that I know has invested large human, material, and financial resources in its R&D and IP Departments is the Ninestar company group (Ninestar). Ninestar has established a monitoring for OEM patents and patent applications. Hence, potentially relevant OEM patents are identified at an early stage and compatible cartridges are developed considering these patents. Independent patent law firms have been engaged to verify that the developed solutions do not infringe identified OEM patents. Ninestar grew quickly with their own innovations for compatible products, many of which are protected by patents filed and owned by Ninestar.
Recently, Ninestar acquired the American printer OEM Lexmark. I have reasons to believe that without the investment in high-quality compatible cartrdiges, Ninestar could not make an achievement like this.
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