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Canon loses printer recycling case

Refilling, reselling cartridges doesn't violate patents - Tokyo court

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Selling recycled Canon printer cartridges does not constitute an infringement of the company's intellectual property, the Tokyo District Court has ruled.

The judgement marks the latest stage in Canon's legal battle against printer cartridge recycler Recycle Assist (RA). In April this year, Canon sued RA, claiming the company was violating its patents.

The verdict, that RA wasn't, paves the way for other such companies to begin taking in old printer cartridges and refilling them with ink or toner - with a commensurate loss to the major printer makers' earnings from new cartridge sales.

Such are the juicy margins on new printer consumables, the printer manufacturers have been willing to stop at almost nothing to defend them. In the US, Lexmark has similarly been pursuing Static Control Corporation (SCC) through the courts in order to block the company from selling toner cartridges compatible with its own. Despite some initial success, centred on its use of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Lexmark has since seen the case go SCC's way on appeal.

Canon, meanwhile, may itself appeal against the Tokyo verdict.

The company recently changed its printers to allow the use of new, no-brand toner cartridges following the launch of an inquiry by the Japanese Fair Trade Commission. The FTC had received claims from generic-cartridge manufacturers that Canon was tweaking its machines to make it harder for owners to fit anything other than Canon-branded consumables.

According to the Financial Times, general consumables account for 25 per cent of Japanese toner sales. They are typically half the price of branded alternatives. Recycled cartridges could become cheaper still. ®

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