Lexmark wins Round 1 in DMCA chip case

Get your toner cartridges off our lawn

Lexmark has gained an early success in its Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) case against an obscure maker of toner cartridge chips.

The firm, Static Control inc., is ordered by a US court to "cease making, selling or otherwise trafficking in the Smartek(TM) microchip used in the remanufacturing of laser toner cartridges developed for the Lexmark T520/522 and T620/622 laser printers," Lexmark says in a press release. (This is not on the web site yet, but it will probably live here.)

The ruling from the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky is based upon the finding from Judger Karl Forester that £Lexmark is likely to prevail at trial on the merits of its copyright infringement and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)", Lexmark reports

Static Controls produces a microchip which enables companies to remanufacture Lexmark toner cartridges - illegally, Lexmark claims. The printer giant notes that it has a cartridge readily available to remanufacturers without "the need of a third-party microchip".

And it points to its recycling and return policies, which has "significantly increased toner cartridge returns to Lexmark, allowing the company to keep these toner cartridges out of the waste stream and enabling Lexmark to offer its customers high quality remanufactured toner cartridges".

All well and good: but printer consumables are expensive and manufacturer lock-in ensures that they remain so. In Europe, HP has won a string of cases against clone inkjet cartridge makers, so the law is on the side of vendors, on both sides of the Atlantic.

But for how long? In December, the European Parliament
passed the "electroscrap" law, which includes a ruling directing manufacturers of printers to no longer incorporate chips into their own-brand ink refill cartridges. From there, it is just a short step to incorporating a similar ruling about toner cartridges.

Lexmark, HP, Canon, Brother et al will need to implement even more price-friendly green cartridge recycling policies to avoid such a fate. ®

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