The Polish market of printing materials has recently been electrified by the news that HP is claiming its patent rights in court. The upshot: two distributors of alternative printing materials had to remove the disputable products from their offers. Experts reassure that it does not mean that the users will lose access to the cost-efficient alternative.

Although such lawsuits are quite common in the world, in Poland it has been for the first time that an OEM producer claims its patent rights in court. Trade expert agree: it is a right move, which will civilize our market of substitutes. ‘It is the first, but undoubtedly not the last, such situation. We all agree that it is in the best interest of the trade to educate the market in compatibility of products and legal requirements,’ comments Piotr Drzewiecki, Marketing Manager at Black Point SA, a company producing printing materials. ‘Our users must know that on this market only the largest companies, which offer safe products in terms of patents, i.e. reproduced ones, are bound to survive. These products are manufactured in accordance with law and they guarantee actual savings while maintaining high quality of print,’ he adds.

Modern definition of a quality alternative

As is highlighted by experts, one should not think equally of all available substitute products. What is more, the criteria for comparing alternative products have changed. Price and efficiency used to be key values. Today, it is also the guarantee of use, and meeting quality standards (including ISO) as well as the provisions of international law and rights of manufacturers of printers. On the market, there are available materials which take all those criteria into consideration. They offer the user actual savings and safety of use in its broad meaning, not only in reference to the reliability of these products but also in terms of patent laws. ‘Safe alternative consumables are such products which are made in a re-manufacturing process, i.e. using selected sub-assemblies from recycling,’ explains Piotr Drzewiecki. ‘It is legal, patent-safe and what’s more it is eco-friendly,’ he adds. Re-production allows reducing the amount of waste in landfills. Thanks to that, selected elements of empty printer cartridges are used, such as casings, and others are utilized. It is a different case for materials which are by specialists called “100% new”, i.e. materials which are produced completely from scratch, usually in factories in the Far East, more often than not violating patent rights of equipment producers. And it was such products (ink cartridges, to be precise) that the recent lawsuit has concerned.

How to look for a safe alternative?

It is worth trusting proven and well-known brands, as legal safety is ensured by a patented production technology. ‘For the last 25 years, we have been perfecting our manufacture technology. ‘We are a Polish company with traditions, and we on our own design, produce and, supported by our own R&D laboratory, even test our products,’ says Dariusz Troszczyński, product engineer at Black Point SA. The company is a good example of a domestic enterprise with traditions, which offers employment to local communities. Its production facility is located outside Wrocław and employs approx. 100 people. The company sells its product in the country and abroad. For years, it has supported pro-ecological campaigns promoting reasonable management of empty printer cartridges. As part of one of such campaigns, together with Stowarzyszenie Gaja (Gaia Association), one of Poland’s largest and oldest environmental organizations, co-funds planting trees in Polish forests.

How not to get inked in?

Experts confirm that the users’ awareness in terms of the most vital parameters of alternative printing materials still needs to be raised. It is worth to closely follow information on the packaging of consumable materials and not to yield to a diktat of price. The cheapest does not always mean the best. ‘We encourage doing conscious shopping,’ says Piotr Drzewiecki. ‘Suspicions should be raised by products of significantly lowered price, which do not specify where the product comes from or where it was produced,’ he adds. In such a case, it is almost certain that we are dealing with a product that was made in China and which may infringe patent rights. Important is all information on applied ISO standards, contact data, including guarantee and service information. ‘This ensures safety.’ We should remember that products that come from shady sources may be defective and may expose us to risk of additional costs. By making reasonable choices, we will avoid trouble with a branded alternative and we will still be able to reduce the costs of printing,’ he adds.