40 Years of Laser Printing, Thanks to Inventor Gary Starkweather

xerox 9700Gary StarkweatherGary Starkweather is credited as the inventor of the modern laser printer while working at Xerox research labs in 1969.

He developed Xerox’s first laser printing product, the Xerox 9700, which was announced in June of 1977. His invention revolutionized the digital printing industry, where today generates more than $120 billion in global annual revenues, according to Smithers Pira. In 2012 Starkweather , was inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame .

Indeed, Starkweather’s invention has been at the heart of very successful Xerox businesses serving production facilities and offices for 40 years and is expected to remain a foundational technology for years to come.

Xerox recently caught up with Starkweather at his home in Lake Mary, Fla; click here to read some of the edited excerpts

HP Stimulates Innovation of World’s Biggest Manufacturing Market with Asia-Pacific 3D Printing Expansion

HP Inc. has reported the commercial availability of its award-winning Jet Fusion 3D Printing solution and the expansion of its 3D printing business across the Asia-Pacific region. Hangzhou Shining 3DePrint Tech Co. Ltd., a prominent 3D printing service provider with over 10,000 customers worldwide plans to cooperate with HP to present customized 3D printing innovations in over 50 locations across China. Infinite 3D Printing also plans to install HP’s 3D printing solutions in multiple technology centers including Suzhou and Qingdao.

HP is also extending its Partner First 3D Printing Specialization reseller program to the Asia Pacific region, expanding its open 3D materials and application ecosystem, and opening new 3D Printing Reference and Experience Centers in multiple countries to create a deeper level of engagement with existing and potential customer/partners.

Shining 3D ePrint is the leading Chinese 3D printing company in over 70 countries throughout the world. They plan to deploy HP’s 3D printing solutions in over 50 locations across China. Shining 3D ePrint is also joining the HP Partner First 3D Printing Specialization reseller program, supporting HP’s new 3D Printing Reference and Experience Centers nationwide across China, and further developing 3D printing applications designed for the Chinese market.

Infinite 3D Printing is a leading Chinese 3D printing solutions provider and important for the continuing development of the Chinese 3D printing market including in education, training, R&D, government and academic alliances, and the 3D Printing Innovation Center in the Qingdao High-Tech Zone. Infinite 3D Printing plans to unleash HP 3D printing solutions in several locations across Suzhou and Qingdao and has been chosen to join HP’s Partner First 3D Printing Specialization reseller program.

HP expands 3D Printing Reseller Program across the Asia-Pacific Region with several new partners. Additional partners and countries will be added as HP continues to broaden its business across the region. HP 3D Printing reseller and go-to-market partners will bring the best in expertise and knowledge of HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology to customers deploying the solutions.

HP’s unique open 3D printing platform model helps expand the availability of new materials and address a broader set of applications, lower materials and development costs, drive speed and performance improvements, and further create new possibilities for part properties that address industry needs. Sinopec Yanshan Petrochemical Company intends to collaborate with HP to develop polyolefin-based powders for HP 3D printers base on Multi Jet Fusion Technology.

Shining 3D ePrint plans to showcase HP 3D printing solutions in over 50 demonstration centers across China. HP and its partners are trying to unleash several new 3D Printing Reference and Experience Centers in Beijing, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Shanghai, Suzhou, Tokyo, Taipei and several others. Testing and qualification of new 3D printing will be enabled in controlled environments, giving customers a path to advance from prototype to full 3D production. Previously, HP showcased more than a dozen 3D Printing Reference and Experience Centers in the U.S. and Europe and plans to further continue adding facilities as it expands its 3D printing business.


Supreme Court restricts patent after product gets sold

Lexmark Toner Battle

A patent by definition protects its innovators from its imitators. A patent gives you a 20-year monopoly on the manufacture, use, sale and import of the covered product. But what happens to the patent after the product is sold? That is the question in the Supreme Court brought forward by Lexmark International.

Patent holders never stop trying to extend their monopoly control past the first sale. A century ago, the corporate predecessor to Columbia Records sold its patented, cylinder-spinning Graphophones to a dealer with the agreement that the dealer would retail them at a fixed price. When the dealer offered the machines at a discount, the corporation sued. But it didn’t sue for the broken contract (which was then illegal under antitrust law). Instead, it claimed that its patent-protected monopoly on the sale of Graphophones allowed it to place conditions on their resale, too.

The retailer’s low price, the company complained, was a form of patent infringement. In 1918, a divided Supreme Court disagreed. It held that a patent provides an exclusive right to sell a product, but only once. Once the product is sold its exercised patent, is “exhausted.”

The nearly 100-year-old case is very similar to the current case in the Supreme Court involving Lexmark International. Lexmark makes printers that must be supplied with Lexmark’s patented toner cartridges. But as everyone that has owned a printer knows, new replacement toner cartridges can be expensive.  The high cost of toner cartridges has created the conditions for a thriving secondary market in much-cheaper refilled cartridges.

For Lexmark, refilled cartridges is a huge loss to the bottom line. So it devised a strategy to discourage its customers from selling their empty cartridges to refillers. It offered an upfront discount of about 20 percent if customers promised, cross their hearts, swear to God, to return the empty cartridges to Lexmark. The campaign did not work very well as many customers took the upfront discount and then sold their empty cartridges to refillers anyway. Lexmark knew this was happening because it marked the discounted cartridges with a special microchip, and microchipped cartridges kept showing up on the secondary market.

Lexmark could’ve sued its customers for breach of contract, but that would have been messy and unproductive and a PR disaster. Instead, it sued the refillers, claiming they violated patent law. Lexmark had a patent-protected monopoly on the sale of new cartridges, and it sold the microchipped ones on the express condition that they never be refilled. By reselling them; it’s a violation of that express condition, Lexmark argued, the refillers were infringing on Lexmark’s patents.

But on May 30, 2017; the Supreme Court, just like its predecessor  99 years ago, ruled that patent rights are exhausted by the sale of a product. The patent holder has an exclusive right to make that first sale. But once that sale is made at the patent holder’s dictated price, the patent laws have performed their function. Their role in the commercial play is over. The purchaser of a patented product acquires not just property but the right to dispose of it.

The case has ominous implications for every business model that relies on selling cheap products but expensive supplies. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, many manufacturers of gaming consoles depend on customers buying games from them and them alone, forever and ever. Many connected household products (the “internet of things”) function only if the consumer purchases a subscription from the manufacturer. Such loss-leader pricing strategies may no longer be viable after the Lexmark decision.

The court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, goes out of its way to draw parallels between patent and copyright law. It includes a mind-boggling estimate of the number of patented components stuffed into a generic smartphone: 250,000. But the phone’s operating system and apps are copyrighted, not patented. Cars and microwaves, too, run on copyrighted software as well as patented machinery. The opinion seems to be suggesting the two types of intellectual property should be treated as similarly as possible because in many contexts it is no longer possible to treat them as separate.

If the court continues along that path, the implications quickly become interesting. Take your music collection. If you buy songs from iTunes or in another digital form, can you resell them? Several years ago, a lower federal judge said “no,” holding that a consumer violates copyright law by passing along a song he or she has bought and paid for. That ruling effectively put ReDigi, an online music reseller, out of business. ReDigi itself is in bankruptcy, but its appeal remains pending. The company’s odds of getting the judge’s ruling overturned look much better today than before the Lexmark case was decided.