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Inkjet refiller lashes out at HP for lawsuit

Rhinotek accuses Hewlett-Packard of "bullying tactics," considers countersuit after HP claims false advertising.

Rhinotek's chairman has sharply criticized Hewlett-Packard over a lawsuit asserting that the inkjet cartridge refiller falsely advertises its products as new.

"I think HP is utilizing a bullying tactic," Gerald Chamales, who also is founder of the 150-employee company in Carson, Calif., said late Tuesday. "I think consumers are tired of being gouged by what I call the cartel, which is the major printer manufacturers, led by HP, Lexmark and Canon, (and which is) forcing people to not have a choice when it comes to ink and toner cartridges."

However, Rhinotek hasn't determined its legal response yet. "We are considering all our legal options. We intend on defending ourselves vigorously," Chamales said. "We're considering filing a countersuit for antitrust and business disruption for frivolous litigation."

HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., sees things differently. "We're not forcing people to use any particular cartridge. We just think it's wrong to sell our used cartridges without telling people they are used HP cartridges," company spokeswoman Monica Sarkar said.

HP sued Rhinotek on Monday for false advertising, arguing that the company falsely advertises its recycled HP inkjet cartridges as new. HP also sued another company, Lenexa, Kan.-based InkCycle, for using ink that HP said infringes on three of its patents.

Consumables, which are printer supplies such as inkjet cartridges, laser printer toner cartridges and glossy photo paper, are a major revenue source for HP and other printer manufacturers. Companies that remanufacture or refill the cartridges cut into the resulting profits, though HP argues it doesn't object to the refilling business in general.

HP wants Rhinotek to label its cartridges as used, and it objects to the company's packaging, which calls the products "heavy duty."

Chamales said "heavy duty" describes the ink, which lasts as long as HP's or longer.

"I think our packaging is fine. We put on there, 'manufactured with recycled components,'" he said.

Rhinotek's packaging doesn't use quite those words, however. Under the words "Help the Environment," the packaging says, "At Rhinotek we do everything we can to encourage recycling. We use recycled components in our packaging and products whenever possible."