It is difficult to where exactly we are on the spectrum. A few instances of creative companies using DRM and other protective designs preventing consumers from buying compatible consumables.
Previously, it seemed that companies were using Patent law to prevent their competitors from selling compatible consumable items to their customers. I am certain there are many examples but the one that I think sticks out is the Nespresso coffee machines. They had apparently a unique shaped capsule that was under Patent protection. This did a good job of keeping other companies from selling that profitable coffee to their consumers – alas all good things come to an end. Their original capsule patent expired in 2012 forcing them to compete with others.
I have seen other companies that have other protection mechanisms to prevent you from using compatible soap refills or air fresheners refills. Some of these methods can be easily circumvented with simple items or methods. ( felt tip marker circumvents Sony disc copy prevention )
Some of these companies do try to sell products as a loss leader with the goal of making their profit on the back end. It does seem that the printer industry seems to fall under that heading based on the costs of some of their low end printers. I am not sure I want to pay for overpriced ink or toner but I can understand that model.
I am a bit less understanding of General Electric and how they deal with water filters connected to their refrigerator.
Patents, protective mechanisms, as well as DRM to lock the consumer in are methods that could be used to try and guarantee future profits, but what makes these methods awesome for the company and less so for the consumer is the DRMC passed in the US in 2004.
The DRMC has a provision that prevents makes it illegal to circumvent technical measures in copyrighted materials. It didn’t take the companies too longer to see this as a cudgel that could be used against competitors as well as people who circumvent this on their own legally purchased devices. What could be better, protection from competition with the power of law.
It is difficult to know at this time if this is the top of the slippery slope or if we are further down. It doesn’t really matter but there is a dystopian future where this type of DRM will prevent virtually all competition.