Feeds

Jury spanks Lexmark in toner refill case

The stink about ink

High performance access to file storage

Lexmark must rue the day that it elected to sue a small components supplier, which had developed a chip to enable toner recartridge manufacturers to produce printer clones. In the latest round of its fight against Static Control Components SCC), a jury in Kentucky - Lexmark's home state - ruled the printer giant "unreasonably restrained competition" in the way it ran a used cartridge return program. Worse, the jury agreed with SCC that Lexmark has the "substantial ability to exploit customers".

So what is the fuss all about? Well, Lexmark offered corporate customers "prebates" or discounts for agreeing to return the empty cartridge for recycling. Lexmark's cartridges include a chip which must be authenticated by the printer before it will accept the new cartridge. Static Control Components makes a chip which replicates this "handshake".

In 2002, Lexmark filed patent suit against SCC. Ludicrously, it tried to invoke the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in its battle orders, a move that ended in failure - but not before earning the derision of millions and the enmity of many digital rights activists. In a counter-attack, SCC filed suit, alleging that Lexmark's prebate program was anti-competitive, and claimed $100m in damages. For good measure, SCC also hurled bad for the environment mud at Lexmark.

Will the Kentucky case boost the clone refill market in the US? And more to the point, does it mean cheaper printer ink - a substance so precious that it costs many more times than its own weight in gold? It's too early to say: the jury may be in, but its decision is non-binding, and there are 30 days to go before we hear U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove' verdict.

But judging from the Louisville Courier-Journal report of the trial, it seems unlikely that his conclusion will be very different. He told the paper that he will give the jury verdict "serious consideration". In which case, Lexmark must surely appeal.

Read Lexmark's version of events and one would think that the company emerged a winner from the Kentucky court house. Nowhere in its press statement does it say disappointed" or "loss" or "appeal".

It notes that SCC's antitrust and false advertisement accusations against Lexmark were rejected by the jury. And it also says that "Over the course of the litigation, the court ruled that Lexmark’s patents were valid, covered Lexmark’s toner cartridges and that Lexmark’s patent license under the Lexmark Return Program was valid and enforceable". Also it notes that three remanufacturers enjoined in the litigation had settled earlier and had acknowledged Lexmark patents.

All in all, a decidedly different spin from our reading. You can check out the jury verdict for yourself; it has been posted, ever so helpfully, on SCC's website (pdf). ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.