Staples just can't quit Office Depot (ODP -0.27%). Time and time again, the office supplies giant has tried to buy its rival and failed, often because the government prevented it over antitrust concerns, but more recently because Office Depot itself said no.

Now USR Parent, which is Staples' retail office-supply business, says it is thinking about buying certain Office Depot assets, and Office Depot actually says it's not opposed to the idea.

Collated stack of paper

Image source: Getty Images.

Staples' attempts to buy Office Depot extend back to 1997 when the Justice Department first rejected a $4 billion combination of their retail operations for fear it would limit competition. They attempted a merger again in 2015, this time for $6.3 billion, but that also was shot down by regulators over antitrust concerns. 

Staples was eventually taken private by private equity firm Sycamore Partners, and this past January, the company -- renamed as USR Parent -- offered to buy Office Depot again for $2 billion. This time, however, Office Depot rejected the bid, saying it would invite antitrust scrutiny again. But it left open the possibility of selling parts of its business if Staples wanted to combine their retail and e-commerce operation.

It was that overture from Office Depot that Staples was responding to today when it announced it was mulling over making an offer for "ODP's retail and consumer facing business, its business operations in Canada and certain other assets."

Staples noted it hasn't given up on buying the whole company, but was also willing to buy bits and pieces of its rival. For that reason, its planned tender offer for Office Depot shares was being deferred, though it reserved the right to commence a new offer in the future.