Disposable Recyclable Camera Wars

Case study:  How the "good enough" market works in real life.

"In general the one-time-use camera represents a return to the business model pioneered by Kodak for their KODAK camera, predecessor to the Brownie camera; they are particularly popular in situations where a reusable camera would be easily stolen or damaged, when one's regular camera is forgotten, or if one cannot afford a regular camera." - Wikipedia defnition 10/11/10
1.  An engineer named A.D. Weir invented the "Mailbox Camera" in 1949.  They were sold by a company called Photo-pac. it held an 8-photo spool, and one had to mail it in for processing and get the photos back.  It did not make much of an impact.
"How often have you arrived at a scenic beauty spot without your camera..." the ad begins...
2.  Fuji - a Big Original Equipment Manufacturer [BOEM] - introduced a plastic  design a "disposable camera" to be sold for people who want one on the spur of the moment, for convenient snapshots on holiday, etc.   The cameras are an instant success, it seems a lot of people forget to bring their regular camera, or buy one for their kids.   The were left by the dozens on tables of weddings.  Single use camera sales (or recyclable cameras) blossomed to 20% of all camera sales by 1999.  Kodak and Fuji competed at the two top producers, a fierce competition which left Kodak bruised.  In the 90s, both Kodak and Fuji were earning about $20B a year, and there was no significant #3.  In the "single use" market, both types of cameras had film harvested, and then the shell (including lens, buttons, shutter, etc.) was discarded at the photo developer or drug store.

3.  Environmentalists in the USA, bouncing from a massively successful "Earth Day" Renaissance in 1990 and earning money in recycling jobs created out of the RCRA federal landfill closure bonds issued by many states, or by avoided disposal costs in the high MSW markets of the early 1990s, took "disposable" cameras to task.   Kodak started a recycling campaign to collect the cameras.   I remember one Kodak employee scoff later in the decade how the "disposable issue" went away so quickly, and that the market never really cared, and no one asked how many cameras they were actually collecting for recycling.

4.  It turns out the drug stores and photo developers were NOT just throwing the cameras away.  It turned out that Kodak was getting a small percentage of the cameras back.

5.  The remaining cameras were being snatched up by a gentleman who sold them to Taiwanese guys who replaced the lenses and put film back in and sold them, initially in China.  Their profits were so big that they scaled the operation up and created Jazz Camera, a disposable camera company so large that it soon ate up 25-40% share of the USA market, selling the cameras under many names.  The cameras were cheap and they worked fine.

6. Fuji and Kodak sued Jazz Camera in more than one country, claiming that their patents on the "disposable" camera extended beyond when the cameras were "disposed".  They claimed they had a right, under their patent, to the cameras they had manufactured long after the cameras were thrown out.

... Several lawsuits later (insert text here)

10.  Jazz Camera now is a major manufacturer, making hand held digital cameras in competition with major OEM brands.

If you've read this far, I'm guessing I don't need to write anything more.  If you don't get what this has to do with organized opposition to the "white box" or refurbishing market in PCs, I doubt you can read this much in one sitting, and I'll have to come back to it later.

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