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Paper Mate to enter inkjet printer market

The pen manufacturer wants to put its mark on a sector driven by the skyrocketing popularity of digital photos.

Paper Mate announced Wednesday it plans to throw its hat into the inkjet printer cartridge market, a lucrative and growing sector, as ink-thirsty digital photographs rise in popularity.

The pen division of Newell Rubbermaid expects to offer an inkjet cartridge line that will be compatible with a number of Hewlett-Packard, Epson and Canon printers. The cartridges, which will retail from $6.50 to $30 each, are expected to begin shipping nationwide next month. Cartridges from market leader HP range from $17 to $35 each.

"We know this will shake up the inkjet market," said Rory Leyden, president of Sanford, which makes Paper Mate products. "Consumers want a reasonably priced and reliable alternative to expensive inkjet cartridges. That's exactly what they will get from Paper Mate cartridges."

The ink market has been divided between the printer makers and lesser-known white label brands. More recently, though, other brand names have tried to enter the ink business, including retailers and other companies that are known for their color such as Pantone.

Paper Mate is working with Legacy Manufacturing to produce the cartridges. They will be sold in consumer electronics, grocery, office supply and drug stores, as well as through mass merchandisers.

License to print money
Paper Mate's entry into the $15 billion inkjet cartridge market follows similar moves by other technology industry titans.

Last year, for example, Dell teamed up with Lexmark to offer printers, and this fall they expanded those plans to include portable photo printers. Over the past 19 months, the computer maker has launched nearly 20 printer models in roughly 60 countries.

Dell expects to generate about $1 billion in printer revenue in its first full year of playing in that market.

HP is looking to protect its position in the printing space--which spans the gamut of business to consumer printers and products. Last August, HP announced its Vivera ink products for printing digital camera photos.

HP's imaging and printing group contributes the bulk of the company's overall profits, with much of that money coming from ink- and paper-related sales, analysts have noted.