HP Defends Its Ink Jet Patents in China … Again

Following a much-publicized case in April 2016, HP is going back to the courts in China to once again defend its intellectual property (IP) rights against a cartridge supplier based in Zhuhai, China.

HP has used its Chinese entity, China HP Co., Ltd. 中国惠普有限公司 (China HP) as the plaintiff in the Shanghai IP Court (established in the last four years) against Zhuhai Sharing Color Printing Consumables Co., Ltd. 珠海市韶运打印耗材有限公司 (Sharing Color).

China HP officially docketed two complaints on March 20 and served Sharing Color on April 12, 2019. Two complaints have been filed because there are two patents involved, being ZL200680056896.9 and ZL200580011727.9 respectively. China HP has filed two separate cases because each patent has to have its own case in China. HP’s patents relate to “addressing and multiplexing circuitry on the inkjet printhead.”

China HP is accusing Sharing Color of infringing the two patents with the distribution and sale of “clone”, or copycat, 803 integrated inkjet cartridges—HP’s current generation print cartridges with a printhead. HP views this popularly used, latest hi-tech version of its print cartridges as a “bread and butter,” mainline cartridge.

In RT Media’s view, the allegedly infringing products have been, and continue to be, distributed and sold primarily within the Chinese domestic market. Even though the manufacturer of the cartridges has not been identified in the complaint, a source close to HP has told RT Media they know who it is.

HP is requesting RMB¥1.5 million in each case for a total of ¥RMB3 million in damages and also requesting an injunction against any further sales of what it considers to be infringing products. The docket numbers are (2019) Hu 73 Zhi Min Chu No. 174 and 175.

Not the First Time

HP considers the ZL200580011727.9 patent to be particularly strong in China. This same HP patent was involved in a complaint against Speed Infotech of Shanghai in 2015 in a highly publicised case—being the very first case to be heard in the newly formed Shanghai IP Court. HP’s patents were validated. But Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. (惠普发展公司有限责任合伙企业) and Speed Infotech settled out of court.

At the time, Speed Infotech was accused of distributing and selling infringing integrated inkjet cartridges manufactured by MicroJet Technology Co. of Taiwan. Microjet filed invalidity requests at the China Patent Office, and the Patent Office ruled that the patents were valid.  This ruling was then appealed at the Beijing Intellectual Property Court, which also ruled, in HP’s favour, the patents were valid.  It can be assumed HP believes it has a particularly strong patent having withstood the most rigorous scrutiny in the Chinese court system and found to be both valid and infringed.

Because of the good press back in 2015 and 2016, it would appear there have been no further cases of infringement. Certainly, HP has not pursued any Chinese companies in China, until now. Others had been found to be infringing within the Chinese domestic market in the past, but all have either ceased that activity or gone out of business, probably because of the publicity HP has generated with its success in China and worldwide litigation.

Despite the many criticisms China has received in the past over the protection of IP rights, HP’s recent experience with the Chinese legal system would suggest otherwise. The establishment of intellectual property courts in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in 2015, to more efficiently adjudicate cases related to the infringement of patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property, must be seen as a priority for the Chinese government.