Clones vs. Compatibles vs. Remanufactured vs. Genuine Cartridges...what is good, what is legal and what is electrically safe for your printer? Everyone wants to get the best value for money while still getting great quality and ensuring printer reliability. In the world of inkjet printer cartridges the higher prices typically cause people to search around for the best deal.
But this can have negative effects for both you (the consumer) and the supplier. The supplier is losing out on money and the consumer is risking printer performance and long term printer reliability. As such, buying or reusing genuine ink products will always be the best solution, whether they are purchasing genuine OEMs from the brand themselves, refilling genuine cartridges (i.e. getting them refilled at CostcoFry’s Electronics, etc.) or  purchasing remanufactured ink products (like those offered from INKPLICITY).
So, what’s the big deal with using counterfeit cartridges and why look out for them?
HP 952-956 Ink Cartridges

What Are They?

Counterfeit cartridges are made to look incredibly similar to OEM cartridges, fooling you into thinking you are getting a great value product and getting the same quality as a genuine cartridge. These manufacturers are illegally copying the design, parts and even the patents of the original manufacturer – clear violations of manufacturer’s intellectual property (IP) rights. In the industry these types of products are commonly referred to as ‘infringing compatibles’. US Customs and Border Protection officers, via official GEO (general exclusion orders) issued by US district courts, routinely stop these shipments at port of entry or within Amazon warehouses where they are commonly transferred and/or stored. The frequency of these illegal product raids currently occurs two to three times a month.

Clones are exact copies of the original HP, Canon, Epson or Brother cartridge and typically violate Original Equipment Manufacturer’s Intellectual Property (OEM IP).  These cartridges usually cannot be legally sold in the USA (though many on-line resellers seem to try on a monthly basis via Amazon). Most, if not all, are made in China. Many industry analysts and product reviewers refer to these cartridges as ‘infringing clones’.  In recent years, HP, Canon, Epson and Brother have obtained countless General Exclusion Orders (GEO) which permit customs to conduct raids on warehouses, shipments and Amazon fulfillment centers where infringing clones are being stored & sold. 


Compatibles are knock-offs made from scratch, usually claiming to be protected under the manufacturers own IP, but all too often (in recent years) they have been found to violate Original Equipment Manufacturer’s Intellectual Property (OEM IP) as select internal parts are used/replaced. Most, if not all, are made in China.  OEM investigations have found many of these ‘compatibles’ are actually ‘infringing clones’. There is a big grey area between marketing messages related to ‘clones’ and ‘compatibles’ and that is why all of the OEMs are taking so many companies & re-sellers to court on a regular basis now. 

Remanufactured cartridges are original cartridges which have been used by US customers once or twice, collected via recycling centers, and then refurbished (i.e. cleaned, refilled and OEM trademark logo is removed) and had a new replacement smart chip added. Typically these do not violate IP. Most remans are made in USA and will clearly state ‘Remanufactured’ at point of sale and/or on ink packaging. 

Genuine ink cartridges are manufactured by the Original Equipment Manufacturers (i.e. HP, Canon, Epson and Brother). These are also referred to as Original Ink Cartridges. 
You may find it hard to tell the difference as some counterfeit cartridges can be made to look incredibly similar to the real deal. The other downside is that these cartridges are illegal to sell and produce, which no one wants to get involved with ideally.

HP 940 - How to Spot a Fake Clone!

How To Spot A Counterfeit?

We’ve just pointed out that it can be incredibly hard to tell the difference between counterfeit cartridges and genuine cartridges. It is possible to tell the difference by taking a good hard look at these cartridges.
Original manufacturers will always display their trademark logo on the top/side label. They may also use a variety of other methods to illustrate it is a genuine ink supply. For example, a security label that will change color from clear to cyan when tilted (i.e. Samsung). The embossed character should also change color when viewed from different angles.
Be on the lookout for counterfeit products.

HP has a handy QR code on their security seals that can be scanned to prove whether the item is valid or not. There are also quick ways to manually inspect the safety label to ensure that you have purchased a genuine product or a counterfeit. Other manufacturers have a security label that contains a unique serial number and barcode along with a background that will change depending on how you view it.
A big clue to figuring out if a cartridge is counterfeit is where you are buying it. If it is from a third party website and is at a remarkably lower price than you might expect, then chances are it’s not a genuine cartridge, and in many cases there’s a good chance it’s an infringing compatible cartridge. Of course there is a chance that it is real and just happens to be severely discounted, but it may be safer to err on the side of caution and purchase from a reputable source.

Amazon

OEM vs Clone Inkjet Cartridges

Why Should You Care?

You may be wondering why on earth you should care if your cartridge is genuine or not, after all you got it cheaply right? Well that may be the only positive experience you will have with a counterfeit cartridge. Due to the cartridge not being genuine, it also means that it is not filled with genuine ink or an ink which is compatible with the printer’s built-in printhead. Some overseas printer ink contains trace levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which will damage the built-in printhead over time.

Invisible Inks
In addition, you are far more likely to have very poor printouts that include streaks, splotches over your work, substandard colors and much more. This is obviously unacceptable for most people as it will result in you inadvertently spending more money just trying to fix the problem.

Printhead

Even worse for you, using counterfeit products can significantly reduce the life of your printer (i.e. damage to built-in printhead which is the heart of the printer). Overseas manufacturers who make counterfeit cartridges are probably unlikely to care about quality standards, so you can expect substandard quality in the design of the cartridge itself. This can cause the cartridge to not fit properly into your printer, causing leakages and electrical damage that could result in you having to buy a new printer entirely.

HP B210 Diagnostic Print Dry Firing

Be On The Lookout!

To conclude from this, it’s always worth it to pay a little extra more to get optimal print quality. You are guaranteed to get high quality prints when using genuine cartridges (either manufacturer new or remanufactured cartridges which have been refilled from a reputable source), with the added benefit of being able to return cartridges that are malfunctioning.
Below is a list of printer manufacturers and their information pages just in case you think you may have a non-genuine or counterfeit cartridge.
HP
Canon
Brother

If your ink cartridge suffered an electronic or physical failure may we suggest you try a remanufactured ink cartridge from our on-line web site. Our ink cartridges have a high reliability rating, come with a 1-year warranty and we provide free shipping for all orders above $30 (USA residents only).