Full-color printing technology manufacturer Memjet has filed a lawsuit alleging patent infringement against computer hardware manufacturer Hewlett-Packard. The lawsuit alleges that Hewlett-Packard has infringed upon eight different patents that Memjet holds related to their page-wide “waterfall” printing technology. Hewlett-Packard recently began incorporating technology similar to Memjet’s across its entire line of 2D printers, and is also incorporating it into their new full-color Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer.
Memjet does not directly manufacture and sell consumer-ready printers or hardware; rather, they develop printing technologies and then offer them to other companies and hardware manufacturers as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partner. They typically offer products and technology related to 2D printing such as printheads, controller chips, software and inks. Their most notable innovation is their Memjet printheads, which incorporate their patented “waterfall” technology to rapidly “pour” ink onto the page. The ink is delivered via 70,000 individual ink nozzles capable of producing full-color prints at a rate of one page per second.
The lawsuit specifically lists eight individual patents related to Memjet’s page-wide waterfall printing technology that they insist Hewlett-Packard is infringing upon:
- US Patent No. 6,575,549, titled “Ink Jet Fault Tolerance Using Adjacent Nozzles”
- US Patent No. 6,880,914, titled “Inkjet Pagewidth Printer For High Volume Pagewidth Printing”
- US Patent No. 7,156,492, titled “Modular Printhead Assembly With A Carrier Of A Metal Alloy”
- US Patent No. 7,325,986, titled “Printhead Assembly With Stacked Ink Distribution Sheets”
- US Patent No. 8,662,636, titled “Inkjet Printhead Having Rows Of Printhead Segments”
- US Patent No. 8,678,550, titled “Printhead Assembly With Laminated Ink Distribution Stack”
- US Patent No. 8,696,096, titled “Laminated Ink Supply Structure Mounted In Ink Distribution Arrangement Of An Inkjet Printer”
- US Patent No. 9,056,475, titled “Inkjet Printer With Web Feed Maintenance Assembly”
Hewlett-Packard offers its own line of PageWide printers, including the Pro X line of office printers, T-Series large format commercial presses, and the PageWide XL series of products. They have also said that they will be incorporating their PageWide Technology across the entire Hewlett-Packard portfolio of wide format printers, and notably in their forthcoming line of full-color 3D printers. Hewlett-Packard’s line of PageWide printers was announced last year as an alternative to the industry’s dominant LED wide format printers and they specifically mentioned Memjet wide format printers. Last year, Hewlett-Packard Graphic Solutions Business marketing director Francois Martin told PrintWeek:
“HP’s intent is to disrupt the reprographics market, which is currently mainly using LED technology with a little bit of Memjet. There will be no need to trade off between operating cost, speed, quality and the ability to produce colour and mono. Today most firms have separate technologies, using inkjet for colour and LED for mono. We will offer everything in a single device.”
The descriptions of Hewlett-Packard’s PageWide technology do seem similar to the descriptions of Memjet’s page-wide waterfall printing technology. And notably, before their announcement there was plenty of speculation in the press that the inkjet technology that Hewlett-Packard was incorporating into their new 3D printer was Memjet tech. The question of whether two companies produced similar technology concurrently or if one is using patented technology without authorization is not a new one for the tech industry, where these types of lawsuits are all too common. However, given the potential disruption to commercial 3D printing that Hewlett-Packard and their global distribution, service and leasing network has been rumored to potentially cause, this is certainly one of the largest lawsuits of this nature that could directly affect the direction of the 3D printing industry.
The Memjet lawsuit asks the United States District Court for the Southern District of California to prevent Hewlett-Packard from continuing to incorporate what Memjet claims is unauthorized use of Memjet’s patented page-wide waterfall technology in Hewlett-Packard products. They are also seeking to recover monetary damages resulting from the use of their patented technology in Hewlett-Packard’s entire line of PageWide printers. If the court grants the motion to enjoin Hewlett-Packard’s use of the disputed technology, this could result in significant delays for both their new line of PageWide 2D printers and their highly anticipated Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer.
Let us know what you think of this brewing legal battle over on our Memjet versus HP Lawsuit forum thread at 3DPB.com.