It seems that there is no firm, whether big or small, that does not have a concern these days about its products being ripped-off by unscrupulous operators, or finding security concerns within an overseas supply chain. However, when you are a very large global OEM who happens to sell a very profitable product, the mechanisms to attack such activity are wide reaching.

A posting in SiliconValley.com notes that Hewlett Packard is accusing several Asian companies of selling inkjet cartridges that allegedly infringe on HP patents, and in some cases, include components stolen from HP’s contract manufacturing plants. A lawsuit alleges that Microjet Technology of Taiwan and PTC Holdings of Hong Kong sold cartridges that infringe on HP designs. It further accuses another firm, Mipo Technology of selling cartridges containing alleged stolen components. The article notes that from 2005 to 2008, HP has conducted 4620 investigations to seize nearly $800 million worth of counterfeit products within its supply chains.

Lawsuits are a familiar weapon utilized by high tech companies when profits are threatened. In the case of HP vs. Microjet Technology, lawsuits date back to 2001. It seems that in any given year, HP has some sort of lawsuit underway protecting its IP interests in inkjet cartridges. Apple Computer has also been in the headlines of late as it has also filed lawsuits with a major contract manufacturer to protect its intellectual property and patents.  Apple is another high tech company that does not shy from this policing activity.

Not every firm has the resources of an HP to police its supply chain for patent infringement, counterfeits or stolen materials. Constant diligence and supplier monitoring are an unfortunate necessity within today’s extended supply chains.

 Bob Ferrari