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A compatible cartridge is an ink cartridge for inkjet printers made by a third party. It is designed to fit a printer in place of cartridges made by the printer manufacturer. The use of these cartridges may violate the warranties of the printers, but a U.S. court case has found that they do not violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Compatible cartridges are meant to fit into inkjet printers instead of cartridges made specifically for the printer by companies such as Epson, HP, Lexmark, Canon and others. These cartridges made by third parties can be significantly cheaper than those made by the printer manufacturers. They may also be refillable.
The inkjet printer industry runs on a “razor-and-blade” business model. The manufacturers sell the printers themselves at a loss and make profits selling ink cartridges. Compatible cartridges obviously threaten this model, and the printer manufacturers have challenged compatible cartridge makers. Because some printers employ software to detect ink cartridges using chips built into a cartridge, some makers have even faced Digital Millennium Copyright Act lawsuits. In Lexmark Int’l v Static Control Components, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that compatible cartridge makers were not violating the DMCA.
Despite the legality of compatible cartridges, printer manufacturers claim that these cartridges are of lower quality and using these cartridges often voids the warranties on printers. A PC World test found that refilled cartridges were less reliable, had lower print quality and printed fewer pages than cartridges from the manufacturer.