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HP sues ink cartridge maker for unfair competition

In a second lawsuit, HP's German subsidiary alleges that a Swiss printer supply company is selling new ink cartridges labeled as remanufactured units.

Hewlett-Packard is accusing European print supply maker Pelikan Hardcopy of unfair business practices in an ongoing legal spat over ink cartridges, the company announced Monday.

HP's German subsidiary, Hewlett-Packard GmbH, said in a second lawsuit filed in a German court that Pelikan's German subsidiary is selling two models of color inkjet print cartridges labeled as remanufactured products, when they are actually new. HP says it discovered Pelikan's supposed violation as part of the Imaging and Printing Group's worldwide testing efforts. HP one of the largest suppliers of printers and ink in the world. Pelikanis based in Switzerland and has branches in 11 European countries.

Pelikan has previously run afoul of HP. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company sued Pelikan in early May in a different German court and asked that Pelikan be barred from selling several models of color ink cartridges that it says violate three ink formula and three cartridge patents belonging to HP.

Both lawsuits are ongoing. This is not the first time HP has sued a remanufacturer or cartridge refiller over intellectual property violations. Printing is HP's most profitable business and it relies heavily on customer purchases of its ink cartridges, which offer much better profit margin than the actual printing hardware.

Most printer suppliers make ink cartridges that work only with their own models of printers. But there are plenty of companies that sell discount ink to consumers and businesses looking to spend less on cartridges. In the past, HP, Lexmark and other leading printing suppliers have used a variety of legal means to protect their ink and cartridge patents, including, in one case, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.