Compatible Ink Cartridges – Some News and Views


If you search online, you will literally be inundated with articles and information regarding compatible cartridges or toners which are particularly topical again. As yet another printer manufacturer (Lexmark) has successfully settled with 10 of the companies it recently sued over alleged patent infringements.

Lexmark lodged cases against 24 companies with the U.S. International Trade Commission and a Federal Court in Ohio for patent violations relating to the manufacture, sale and import of toner cartridges for their laser printers but the interesting point about all this is that Lexmark was able to bring about legal proceedings in the U.S. that concerned companies based in China. Manufacturers are being consistently aggressive in following up alleged patent violations relating to printer consumables since Epson lead the way in the UK in 2006. So why are they so worried about 3rd party companies producing cartridges to fit their printers?

Quite simply, printer consumables is a very lucrative market and hold the key to valuable sales that Manufacturers are keen to protect and they wish to discourage any potential competition. Anyone who owns a printer is familiar with the high cost of purchasing (genuine) replacement cartridges, but with the ingredients in your average inkjet cartridge little more than some pigment and de-ionised water – why are they so costly? It’s because the Manufacturers want it so.

Generally many printers are sold with only a small profit margin and in some cases virtually at cost, especially in the inkjet market, so costly cartridges are an easy way for printer companies to boost profits. After all, a printer is of no use without any ink! Since cartridges aren’t a costly item to produce in bulk and are only overinflated by the printer manufacturers, this has left the market wide open to 3rd party companies to produce low cost alternatives. Compatibles are therefore not cheap because they are a poor quality copy but because their cost lies somewhere between the actual production costs and a sensible retail cost that allow the company’s producing them to still make a profit and seem cheap only when compared to the cost of genuine.

So, this gives a little understanding of why there are compatibles in the printer cartridge market, why they seem so cheap and why manufacturers are so keen to prevent them becoming easily available. The next question is, are they right for you?

The answer to that lies in your expectations and what you require from your printer. Realistically and honestly, there are going to be some differences between the printing quality of a manufacturer’s genuine cartridge when compared to a basic unbranded compatible, especially if your motivation was to simply pick the cheapest on offer. However, if the main requirement is that text can be easily read and you print the occasional picture expecting it to be a good example of the original then there’s no reason why an economy range or unbranded compatible won’t do the job.

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