Off brand or third party refilled cartridges can last longer as they container more toner and offer better bang per buck (not least because they are actually full of toner vs official cartridges — the standard versions of which are demonstrably not), which is why they attract positive reviews and repeat orders.

Cartridges didn’t used to be so hi-tech, the only reason they are now is to protect inflated prices designed to maximise revenue for large companies who have sought to protect those streams by including technically unnecessary complexity for the sole purpose of making it harder to manufacture compatible devices.

Though circumventing that complexity is protected by law that hasn’t stopped deep pocketed cartridge manufacturers from trying to curtail third parties and tie them up in court, hoping to force them out of business and dissuade other would-be competitors in the process.

It is far better for the environment and for consumers to cartridges to be refilled, as just people have been doing at local schools and libraries for decades.

If this were easier to do with modern printers there would be very little market for actual imitations, as cheaper, higher quality, off brand cartridges would be easier to produce and sell, without fear of harassment from incumbents.

The debate around legality of circumventing the unnecessary complexity added to cartridges for the purposes of manufacturing a compatible cartridge was already settled in US in the old “Lexmark International, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc.” case, which the Supreme Court ultimately weighed in on.

This article tries to conflate off brand goods with counterfeit ones and makes some rather exceptional claims without providing any evidence for them. They are not the same.

It fails to acknowledge that ‘counterfeit’ grey area in large part exists because of the introduction of technology that makes it unnecessarily hard to make compatible third party cartridges in the third place, and that incumbents have tried to use their power to prevent competition.

Lastly, to address a common trope, printers are not so incredibly complex that they are loss leaders. This is — according to spokespeople for HP themselves — based on the idea of up front printer technology R&D costs needing to be recouped. In reality, this happened many years ago; companies like HP and Canon each make billions of dollars every year in profit.

The only thing that’s remotely true about is that very low end consumer printers are sometimes sold very cheaply at retail with taking a hit at markup up front in mind, but these are comparably unsophisticated lower quality printers and almost always only come with partially filled ‘starter’ cartridges, in practice this forces people to buy replacement cartridges right away (on which the markup is so high that they make up the difference right away).

A real issue, not in the article, is that official printer cartridges from companies like HP are often artificially hard coded to stop working after a fix number of pages, even when they still container toner; pushing consumers to buy a new cartridge even though they don’t need one, protecting revenue streams for the billion dollar giants at the expense of consumers and the environment.

Written by

Software for news and media and civic tech. Cat herder. Director at Glitch Digital.

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