Tuesday, February 22, 2005

DMCA abuse -- the courts refuse to roll over

Last July, I wrote about how the DMCA might be applied to lock customers in to custom batteries -- or printer catridges. Vendors wanting to move customer off of old products can just stop selling the batteries -- or the printer cartridges.

I figured this was inevitable, but may be I was wrong:
SiliconValley.com | 02/22/2005 | Lexmark printer running low on legal size paper

Looks like Lexmark's effort to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to prevent other companies from making refurbished toner cartridges for its printers has received a potentially fatal blow. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has denied Lexmark's request that it reinstitute an injunction against Static Control Components (SCC), a maker of computer chips that enable recycled toner cartridges to work in Lexmark International printers. Lexmark had argued that SCC's Smartek chip circumvents a copyrighted technological measure that its printers use to verify toner cartridges are original and because of that violates a clause in the DMCA that prohibits the dismantling of devices intended to protect intellectual property rights. It was a worrying use of the DMCA and one that, as SCC pointed out in a legal brief, could cause consumer-unfriendly DMCA-protected chips to appear in many consumer products. Evidently, the court agreed. Now, barring the intervention of the Supreme Court, it looks like Lexmark's case is dead in the water. 'This is a very gratifying decision,' said SCC chief exec Ed Swartz. 'We have asserted from the outset that this is a blatant misuse of the DMCA. The Sixth Circuit's ruling and the court's decision not to hear Lexmark's request for another hearing solidifies and supports our position that the DMCA was not intended to create aftermarket electronic monopolies.'

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