A Victory for Openness, Competition

  • AP: Court Overturns Lexmark Case Injunction. Lexington-based Lexmark filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Static Control from competing for its remanufactured cartridge business. Lexmark accused Static Control of violating copyright law along with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

  • As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes in this release, “This decision suggests that courts are losing patience with frivolous reverse-engineering suits filed under the DCMA that seem designed to crush competition rather than protect copyright.”

    we can hope, anyway.


    Posted by: on October 27, 2004 02:20 PM

    “competing for its remanufactured cartridge business”

    One of the more creative euphemisms for “stealing” that I’ve seen.

    For those of you who haven’t followed the case: Lexmark came up with a program that sold toner cartridges to customers at a discount, contingent on their agreement to return the cartridges to Lexmark when empty. They embedded chips in those cartridges that would distinguish them from the more-expensive “do whatever you want with them” cartridges, and prevent them from being refilled by anyone but Lexmark.

    Now, I don’t know how it works out in practice, but on paper it’s a major win-win deal for everybody: it dramatically reduces both the administrative and remanufacturing costs for Lexmark, and makes it very convenient for customers to send the re-usable box and cartridge in for recycling, instead of to the landfill. Does it also give Lexmark a huge competitive advantage in the refurbishing biz? Yup. However, nothing that I’ve read about the case so far even hints that Lexmark did anything to prevent the third-party vendors from trying to compete by offering a better TCO through recycling the “whatever” cartridges.

    What Static Control did was the modern equivalent of cattle rustling: they came up with a way to “rebrand” the discounted cartridges so they could do the refilling.

    Regardless of how you feel about the odiousness of the DMCA, or Lexmark’s lawyers’ (ab)using it, this case isn’t about “preventing competition”: it’s about “preventing theft”.

    Posted by: on October 27, 2004 10:14 PM

    That’s BS. If the discount you refer to existed, it’s a side issue.
    As anyone who has actually used Lexmark’s products will tell you, the chip embedded in its cartridges is nothing but a scam. The chip has only one function: to pass an “identity test” so that if you tried to use a competitor’s toner cartridges, the printer’s own software can (gratuitously) slow down and disable some of its advanced features. The sole point of this “feature” was to destroy any other company’s ability to make a profit selling toner cartridges that fit a Lexmark printer.
    It’s about time the courts sided with consumers against the thieves who pull stunts like that.

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