Last year, when I wrote about Actionable Intelligence’s top 10 stories of 2020, the year had a big overarching theme: the disruptive impact of COVID-19 on the printer and supplies industry. As 2021 winds to a close, perhaps the most remarkable thing is we’re still in COVID limbo.
Hopes that everything would be back to normal this year dimmed as new virus variants have emerged. New problems arose in the form of chip and component shortages, skyrocketing shipping and transit costs, and increasing challenges in getting products into customer hands when they needed them.
But, as the saying goes, “Adapt or die.” In 2021, we saw printer and supplies companies doing their utmost to evolve to so that they might survive and even thrive in our “new normal.” Companies focused on developing products and solutions for hybrid workforces and restructuring businesses to focus on digital transformation. As the impact of climate change became undeniable, we saw companies working to become greener and embrace recycling/reuse. In 2021, some companies saw their financial results come roaring back from last year’s lows. Others, however, have continued to struggle.
Actionable Intelligence’s top stories of 2021 run the gamut from companies struggling to more upbeat stories about reuse and recycling. As usual, our legal coverage of printer and supplies industry lawsuits generated some of our top headlines.
2021 Top 10
- Konica Minolta Toner Production Resuming but Shortages Likely to Persist, Konica Minolta Reports Explosion at Toner Factory in Japan, Production Resumes at Konica Minolta Toner Factory, and Konica Minolta Provides Update on Toner Factory Fire: This year, our top story or really stories were about the explosion and fires that broke out at a Konica Minolta toner plant in Tatsuno, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. If 2021 had a theme, one of them was surely trouble with the global supply chain. And an already tough situation became more challenging for Konica Minolta due to toner production being halted at a pair of key facilities in Japan.
- HP Supplies Chief Discusses Anti-Counterfeiting, Renewed Instant Ink, and Korean Litigation: For this article, we interviewed Guillaume Gerardin, senior vice president and general manager of print supplies for HP. Mr. Gerardin updated us on HP’s anti-counterfeiting efforts; HP’s Instant Ink with Planet Partners pilot program in Germany, under which it offers Instant Ink customers “renewed” (or remanufactured) cartridges; and efforts to protect its toner cartridge patents in South Korea.
- Class Action Claims Canon PIXMA Units Won’t Scan or Fax When Out of Ink: Number-three on our list of most-read stories is about a class-action lawsuit filed by David Leacraft against Canon over PIXMA printers that won’t scan or fax with low or empty inkjet cartridges.
- Delta Management Warns Creditors That Online Tech Stores Has Been Liquidated: Actionable Intelligence was first to break the news that Online Tech Stores, LLC, a popular online reseller of third-party consumables that had been acquired by Blackford Capital, was liquidated.
- HP Warns That Third-Party Chips Pose Security Risks: For this article, we interviewed HP’s Andy Binder, vice president and general manager of office supplies solutions, and Shivaun Albright, chief technologist for print security. They explained why HP believes third-party cartridges with non-HP chips pose a security threat.
- HP Launches Recycled HP EvoCycle Toner Cartridge Line for LaserJets in France: We’re a little surprised our sixth most popular story wasn’t number one given that it represented huge news: HP has launched the HP EvoCycle toner cartridge line in France. Some elements of the toner cartridges are reused/remanufactured.
- Canon Files Complaint with ITC, Claims 26 Respondents Have Infringed imageRUNNER Toner Container Patents: Canon asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to open a Section 337 investigation to determine whether 26 third-party supplies makers and sellers infringed 13 of Canon’s patents on the toner supply containers and components used in imageRUNNER MFPs. We have been following the investigation in detail this year; currently, we are awaiting the ITC’s initial determinations in the matter.
- Epson Faces New Class Action over Firmware Update That Locked Out Third-Party Ink: In February 2021, John Galgon filed a would-be class action against Epson that claimed the firm employed firmware updates to prevent consumers from using third-party alternatives to Epson ink. The lawsuit has since been sent to arbitration.
- Third-Party Toner Cartridges Removed from the Market in the Netherlands Due to High Levels of Hazardous Substances: This story revealed that a government agency in the Netherlands conducted an inspection of certain third-party toner cartridge brands and found some contained high concentrations of hazardous substances. This has been an ongoing topic in Europe over the last few years.
- HP Celebrates Earth Day with Launch of ‘Renewed’ Instant Ink: We see this story as a nice parallel with our story in the number-six position. Among a slew of environmental targets and initiatives, HP announced the big news that it was remanufacturing or what it called “renewing” Instant Ink cartridges in Germany.
For those looking to review the year’s top stories, I would like to highlight one more story that almost made the top 10 list, falling short at number 11. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d urge you to check out ML Products Sues Ninestar, Aster, BillionTree, Mountain Peak, and V4INK for Unfair Competition on Amazon. This lawsuit, which Actionable Intelligence will be closely in the New Year, is about a hot topic. The plaintiff has accused certain third-party supplies vendors of manipulating Amazon’s product rankings to dominate third-party cartridge sales on the online marketplace.
Thank you to the Actionable Intelligence team for your help in covering another eventful year in the printer and supplies industry. And a big thank you to our readers for subscribing, showing you value in-depth content, and making this website possible. Have you got a press release or story idea you would like to see featured on Actionable Intelligence? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you, your company, and your colleagues health, happiness, and a prosperous 2022.
—Christina Bonadio, Executive Editor, Actionable Intelligence