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Patents Printer

Refilling Ink Cartridges Now a Crime? 769

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the this-will-fix-our-overcrowded-prisons dept.
Eric Smith writes "The Ninth Circuit has created box-wrap patent licenses. Now the label on the box that says "single use only" is given force of law, and if you refill the cartridge you are liable for patent infringement."
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Refilling Ink Cartridges Now a Crime?

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  • by lecithin (745575) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:34PM (#13478876)
    So can I still fill up used bottled water bottles with my tap water if it is labled '1 liter'?
    • "So can I still fill up used bottled water bottles with my tap water if it is labled '1 liter'?"

      Sure, but don't you dare try to put a quart in there!
    • Sure, but what if it is labelled "spring water"? Then if the manufacturer holds any patents on the product (which may or may not be related to the type of water in it), they can claim that your refilling the bottle with tap water infringes their patent because you violated the box-wrap license.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:09PM (#13479160)
        Yes, only the original manufacturer is allowed to fill the bottle labeled "spring water" with tap water.
      • by back_pages (600753) <.back_pages. .at. .cox.net.> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:35PM (#13479338) Journal
        Sure, but what if it is labelled "spring water"? Then if the manufacturer holds any patents on the product (which may or may not be related to the type of water in it), they can claim that your refilling the bottle with tap water infringes their patent because you violated the box-wrap license.

        No.

        Slashdot, the Fox News of Patents, has vaguely summarized a short article and omitted details that would significantly diminish the outlandish headline.

        You can infinge every patent in the world so long as you do it for your own purposes. However, you cannot do it for business. There's nothing in the article OR the licensing agreement that describes what you can or cannot do with the printer cartridge for personal use. Be creative.

        This judgement says that you cannot engage in the business of refilling "one use only" cartridges, which apparently includes selling your used cartridges back to a refilling company. I personally find that bizarre, because you could easily "sell your junk" to a third party, who "sells his filtered junk" to a cartridge refilling company, and enforcing this judgement would be nigh impossible. Regardless, this has nothing to do with how you use or refill your printer cartridges - for personal use.

        • Slashdot, the Fox News of Patents, has vaguely summarized a short article and omitted details that would significantly diminish the outlandish headline.

          You can infinge every patent in the world so long as you do it for your own purposes.

          Wrong. There is no exemption for personal use. Here's what the law says:
          35 U.S.C. 271. Infringement of patent (a) Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.
          If you think there is some kind of personal use exemption, please cite the relevant U.S.C. section. There is a limited exemption for "experimental use", but not all personal use qualifies. For instance, if I refill a printer cartridge in a manner that would otherwise infringe the patent, but do it to experiment with refilling techniques, that's probably exempted. But if I refill the cartridge and use it to print my TPS reports, that is not.

          It is unlikely that Lexmark will bring a patent infringement suit against an individual end user for refilling his or her printer cartridge, but that does not mean that they are unable to do so.

          • In Brasil, (Score:5, Informative)

            by hummassa (157160) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @06:48PM (#13479700) Homepage Journal
            the Industrial Property (*) Act exempts explicitly personal use of *any* patented invention or utility.
            (*) == trademarks + patents
          • It is unlikely that Lexmark will bring a patent infringement suit against an individual end user for refilling his or her printer cartridge, but that does not mean that they are unable to do so.

            Lexmark can sue me for killing the CEO's dog, regardless of whether the CEO has a dog or whether I've ever been in the same time zone as the dog. But they aren't going to, because it's absurd, frivilous, and there's no chance of success.

            You're perfectly free to infringe a patent for personal use. The instant you

          • Contract law... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by da5idnetlimit.com (410908) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @08:07PM (#13480048) Journal
            1/I take the nice package
            2/I Biff the "1 use only" mention
            3/I put my initials on the correction
            4/I open the package

            Voila !

            I didn't accept this part of the contract, I dutifuly notified the other party the same way they notified me, put in the correction I wanted and authenticated it...

            Now, when I open this pack, Lexmark is legaly bound to the notification I made ...
            (Yeah, I know, this is stupid, but if it works in one direction, it should work in the other...that's the beauty on the juridic system : you can be two playing at being idiots...)

            Also, if they just put a patent on the "one use only" system, I'm sure the Condoms industry can come up with some prior art...
            • Re:Contract law... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @09:00PM (#13480320) Journal
              that's the beauty on the juridic system : you can be two playing at being idiots...
              But that does not prevent the idiot with the most money to spend on lawyers from winning...
          • by glens (6413) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @10:17PM (#13480623)
            From one four-digit slashdot user to another, you need to read the whole 35 U.S.C. ("Except as otherwise provided in this title") to ascertain the scope. The "domain" encompassed therein is clearly "commercial use".
      • Sure, but what if it is labelled "spring water"?

        Well I'm in trouble then... I sometimes peel the labels off of my bottled water, surely they'll come after me citing the DMCA now!!
  • Meh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ceirren (849938) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:34PM (#13478880)
    I mean, who ever listens to those "one use only" instructions? Those condoms can last a long time.
  • by BobPaul (710574) * on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:35PM (#13478881) Journal
    "you're suddenly a patent infringer. More importantly, Lexmark can sue cartridge remanufacturers for "inducing" patent infringement by making and selling refills."

    How is that patent infringement? Does that cover if I, personally, refill my cartridge at home rather than buying one someone else refilled?
    • You know, I was shopping for a new printer yesterday. I saw a nice Lexmark printer, but then 4 nasty letters popped in my head: DMCA.

      I decided I would not support a company which has so blatantly abused both the law and their customers.

      Did you hear that, Lexmark? You lost a sale because of your lawsuits. Fuck you, I'll buy HP instead.

      • Buy Brother instead. They don't try and sell you a new drum everytime, so toner cartridges are cheaper....

        You can also get duplex printing for cheap (for those docs that just have to be printed...)

    • How is that patent infringement?

      On Slashdot, the Fox News of Patents, that is the $64,000 question. To anybody who works in the patent system, the answer is clearly not patent infringement.

      Patents are published to provide disclosure to the public. You are perfectly free to perform any patented method or build any patented machine. You are not free, however, to use them to engage in business. You're even free to improve them and patent those improvements.

      • by NormalVisual (565491) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @06:03PM (#13479512)
        You are perfectly free to perform any patented method or build any patented machine. You are not free, however, to use them to engage in business.

        Actually, patents do prohibit merely making or using the patented item/process regardless of whether it's for profit or not.

        From 35 USC 271(a): "Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent." (emphasis mine)
        • Actually, patents do prohibit merely making or using the patented item/process regardless of whether it's for profit or not.

          I would have been more accurate in saying, "You can infringe any patent you like for personal use." I'm well aware of the statute, and "personal use" is indeed infringing.

          However, if it's not profitable, then there are no damages to be won in a courtroom. If I make it for my personal use, all you can argue is that I saved money, but you can't prove that I would have otherwise spen

          • Great! So the whole peer-to-peer thing is solved that easy, according to you?

            After all, if I download a (song/movie/game) for my ppersonal use, all you can argue is that I saved money, but you can't prove that I would've otherwise spent it on the copyrighted product or service.

            That's how it SHOULD be interpreted-but it's not how it IS interpreted. That's the whole problem here.

  • by creimer (824291) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:37PM (#13478898) Homepage
    So violating the warrantry is a crime now? I guess the death penalty will be applied for opening a shrink wrap box without reading the EULA inside the box.
  • You lose. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mfh (56) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:37PM (#13478902) Homepage Journal
    I feel that if I see a better value in a product, I will tend to buy it. If I can reuse a product, the product has more value. Therefore, if this policy will prevent me from refilling a certain brand of ink cartridge, I will simply buy a different brand.

    Getting down to ownership; if I buy something, I guess it's not really mine, eh? Stop me.
    • Re:You lose. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KillShill (877105) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:49PM (#13479428)
      "Getting down to ownership; if I buy something, I guess it's not really mine, eh?"

      only if you let them get away with this criminal behavior.

      we need to stop baa-baaing and get some tar and feathers and run these bitches out of town. or at the least, revoke their business licenses.
      • Re:You lose. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @06:29PM (#13479621)
        Actually, people talk all the time about "voting with your wallet" and all that but that rarely works unless you can create a groundswell of public support that even a Presidential candidate would envy. And it only works for a while because we have short memories. Short of that, there are only a couple of tried-and-true methods that can be used to influence corporate behavior: lawsuits, and public embarrassment. Those two are often intertwined.
  • The doctrine of first sale normally means that the first unrestricted sale of a particular device embodying a patent "exhausts" the patent-holders control over the use of the patent in that particular device. In other words, once you buy a DVD that the manufacturer has licensed for the MPEG patents, the MPEG patent holders can't later tell you that you are not allowed to use the DVD player to watch MPEG content on Thursdays, or that you're not allowed to resell the player.

    Apparently the Ninth Circuit thinks that the labelling "single use only" on the box is a legally binding contract, and thus the sale of the product to a consumer is not an "unrestricted sale".

    If this is upheld, we can expect that soon all patent holders will be asserting all sorts of control over consumer products that they currently cannot. For instance, when you buy a new cell phone, it might have a label on the box stating that it is only for use with headsets from the same manufacturer. Up until now they've only been able to try to lock you in by putting a proprietary connector on the phone, and that only works until other manufacturers start producing headsets or adapters with that connector, but under the box-wrap precedent they may be able to use force of law to keep you from using an Ericsson headset with a Nokia phone.

    • by BlueHands (142945) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:22PM (#13479261)
      Every time something crazy comes out such as this I pray for more of the same.

      The only way deep change will come about is when people are told that they can't modify their cars with non-GM parts, when people are told that they can only wear nike shoes with nike pants, when people are prohibited from buying an oral B tooth brush with some Crest toothpaste unless they sign a contract where they promises not to use the 2 products together.

      Let the crazy come cause the crazy can't stay, they can just hassle us for a while.
  • Here we go again... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nogami_Saeko (466595) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:41PM (#13478945)
    Ah, Lexmark is at it again... Gotta love that company - maybe next they'll just send out beefy guys with baseball bats to break the kneecaps of anyone who sells refilled cartridges...

    I'll never buy their products anyway, and I'll make sure that everyone I know is well-informed about their business practises...

    N.
    • Around where i live , It is cheaper to buy a new lexmark printer than to buy official refill cartridges ( around 60 euros for a cheap lexmark printer and about 65 for the cartridges ) , the new printer comes with the cartridges..
      Of-course i can get the third party cartridges for 5 euros ..
      Not that i would actually want a lexmark printer , but its something to mull over
  • Yeah yeah yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:42PM (#13478948) Homepage Journal
    Conservatives have been screaming for about a decade about hot the 9th circuit is insane.

    Now that one of their decisions will effect soccer moms and art students, maybe something will be done about it.

    LK
  • by Phosphor3k (542747) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:42PM (#13478958)
    It's not as cut and dry as the story title and summary implies.

    Lexmark discounts certain cartridges with the understanding that the user will return the spent cartridges to Lexmark. Lexmark recycles the cartridges and sells them again. Lexmark got their panties in a bunch because another company was taking their prebated cartridges and recycling them, causing Lexmark to lose money. Lexmark isn't being quite as evil as they are made out to be, in this case.

    That being said, Lexmark makes my pants sad.
    • It's not as cut and dry as the story title and summary implies.

      Lexmark discounts certain cartridges with the understanding that the user will return the spent cartridges to Lexmark.

      Maybe they should stop doing that.

      Lexmark recycles the cartridges and sells them again. Lexmark got their panties in a bunch because another company was taking their prebated cartridges and recycling them, causing Lexmark to lose money.

      If the business model isn't working, Lexmark doesn't necessarily have a legal recourse.

      • by ScriptedReplay (908196) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:00PM (#13479098)
        The point is (unless I missed it completely, in which case please correct me) Lexmark is saying "you get $30 off when you buy this cartridge if you send it back to us when it's empty." Now, if you buy it and claim the $30 rebate, you pretty much agree to ship back the empty cartridge to Lexmark - and not doing so (by refilling somewhere else) is the contract breach here.

        That does not make everything good, but at least it's not the same thing as the inflamatory /. article. Let's bash Lexmark for the actual evil things they're doing, as there are plenty of those alread.
        • by mellon (7048) * on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:48PM (#13479417) Homepage
          Seems like a stupid business model. Why not just say "we charge you full price, but if you bring the cartridge back when you are done with it, we'll give you a $30 rebate on the next cartridge"? That would accomplish the same purpose, but would give the customer an incentive to cooperate, rather than creating a situation where Lexmark feels some weird obligation to sue the customer for not complying.
          • pretense (Score:4, Insightful)

            by phriedom (561200) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:33AM (#13481184)
            Because the whole thing is just a pretense to keep the user from giving the empties to the companies that refill them. They are purposely trying to form a contract with the cartridge buyer in order to be able to go after the refillers for "inducing" the buyer into violating the contract.

            It seems pretty unfair to hold the 3rd party to the terms of a rebate contract they never saw, didn't agree to, and are not a part of does it?
      • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:12PM (#13479179) Homepage
        If the business model isn't working, Lexmark doesn't necessarily have a legal recourse.

        Myabe you should actually read the ruling. The business model is working, and Lexmark doesn't need nor did they seek legal recourse.

        It was Lexmark that was sued, because the people that want to sell third-party remanufacturered cartridges are having their business hurt by Lexmark's success with this program.

    • Lexmark discounts certain cartridges with the understanding that the user will return the spent cartridges to Lexmark. Lexmark recycles the cartridges and sells them again. Lexmark got their panties in a bunch because another company was taking their prebated cartridges and recycling them, causing Lexmark to lose money. Lexmark isn't being quite as evil as they are made out to be, in this case.

      And why can't they achieve this by posting you a discount coupon (off the cost of a new cartridge) for every re
    • Lexmark discounts certain cartridges with the understanding that the user will return the spent cartridges to Lexmark. Lexmark recycles the cartridges and sells them again. Lexmark got their panties in a bunch because another company was taking their prebated cartridges and recycling them, causing Lexmark to lose money. Lexmark isn't being quite as evil as they are made out to be, in this case.

      Lexmark should take a lesson from the auto parts industry. If I have the water pump on my car die and want to r

  • by Nilatir (179045) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:43PM (#13478960) Homepage
    I assume this will effect the hacked disposable digital cameras and camcorders?
  • by SpecialAgentXXX (623692) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:44PM (#13478978)
    If the cartridge was not my property, I could understand this ruling. It's their property and I'm only borrowing it. However, in this case, It's my property. If I choose to transfer a liquid that I own from a container that I own into another container that I own, that's nobody's business but mine. But if I destroy my printer because my refilled cartridge is not "up to specs," then it's also my fault.

    Isn't this a monopolistic or ogopolistic practice which is suppose to be illegal? Isn't this ruining competition by putting up artificial barriers-of-entry for the printing cartridge market? If some smart company decides to make ink refills, that increases competition which provides us end-user consumers more choices, better quality, and lower prices.

    Bah, I've already lost all hope for the U.S. from top to bottom. Watch the re-release of THX-1138. That's what we've become. "Buy, consume, buy more, consume more, take your drugs, beware of an interval-overdose."
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:52PM (#13479033)
      However, in this case, It's my property.

      It's your lump of plastic and assorted trace metals. However, it's their patented technology which you need a licence to use legally.

      You know, there was once a time when most people owned very little. The average European owned no land; instead he rented patches of land from the local lord, and paid most of his produce to that lord in rent.

      We're heading back that way now. It's not land any more, no, it's intellectual property. The way things are going we geeks won't be free to invent as we always have done any more; we'll have to pay massive dues to our feudal overlords who own patents on everything.

      The best thing is, the libertarians won't care. It's not the government that's pissing all over us, it's private enterprise. And that makes all the difference, doesn't it?

    • If the cartridge was not my property, I could understand this ruling

      You could probably also understand the ruling if you read it, which is something the story submitter obviously did not do.

      Here is what the Court actually said:

      Appellant Arizona Cartridge Remanufacturers Association ("ACRA"), an association of wholesalers that sell remanufactured printer cartridges, appeals the grant of summary judgment to cartridge maker Lexmark on claims that Lexmark engaged in deceptive and unfair business practices

  • I'm curious... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdot @ s p a d . c o.uk> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:45PM (#13478981) Homepage
    How exactly does refilling a cartridge infringe on Lexmark's patents? Do they have a patent on refilling ink cartridges? Perhaps they have a patent on "Saving money by not paying exorbitant fees to Lexmark every time your ink runs low"?

    The 9th Circuit could have just been honest and said that "refilling ink cartridges infringes on Lexmark's right to make money off you and we clearly can't have that now, can we".
  • by Seumas (6865) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:45PM (#13478983)
    Listen, citizens - in case this somehow escaped you - anything that deprives private business from accruing money is and should be criminalized. This includes sharing books, sharing information, discussing movies or letting someone else listen to your radio or watch your television.

    Any of you who behave in opposition to this way of thinking are terrorists and clearly hate America. You are either with us (corporate America) or you're against us. You evil doers will not do us.. uh.. out. There's a saying back where I come from. Take a man's fish and give him... er... uh.. . Give a man your banana and reap his fis... er.. .wait no... feed a man a melon and take his bananas...

    Good night and God bless.
  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:48PM (#13478999)
    They'll get my catridge refiller when they pry it from my cold dead hands.
  • by Kohath (38547) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:52PM (#13479035)
    No one has said it's a crime to refill your printer cartridges. At most, it's a breech of contract between you and Lexmark.

    If you read the court opinion, you'll see that the cartridges won't work unless Lexmark refills them because there's a lockout chip. So breeching this particular contract is going to be difficult anyway.

    Lexmark is guilty of no more than offering their customers a bad deal.

    Buy a laser printer instead.
  • by Craig Maloney (1104) * on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:53PM (#13479043) Homepage
    I think it's time to remove Lexmark from CUPS. It's clear they don't want to play nicely anymore, so I think it's only fair that from now on the Linux community will no longer support their printers. I know this is only a token gesture, and will likely not hurt their bottom line, but I think we need to make it clear that this sort of behavior is not appreciated and should have consequences.
    • Because the best thing we could do to bolster adoption of superior operating systems is intentionally cripple hardware support.

      Cut off my other leg already.
    • Who's going to be more hurt by that action? Lexmark or some poor sod trying to set up his printer on an operating system that no longer has support for it.

      A better course of action would be to just get people you know to never, ever buy a Lexmark printer.
  • It should be simple. You buy it, you own it. Period. If you that means you want to smash it in with a sledgehammer, go right ahead. It's yours! If you want to mess around with the electronics inside, go right ahead. If you want to add liquid to it, whether it's supposed to be there or not, no one can stop you.

    Whatever happened to the sensible days? How is this supposed to be enforced anyway? Does this give the ink cartridge company the right to spy on me in my own home so as to make sure I'm not *gasp* refilling their cartridges?!
  • Madness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aussersterne (212916) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:57PM (#13479076) Homepage
    In this era of population explosion, global resource exploitation, potential global warming, etc., it is insanity to intentionally dictate that easily re-used items be turned into "single-use" consumables that thus fill landfills on one end of the chain while consuming additional resources and energy for the manufacture of identical new items (and packaging, too) at the other end of the chain-- all when the existing item(s)are perfectly fine and completely functional.

    This is the insanity of capitalism: we are running out of oil; we are filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses as the result of our energy use; we are clear-cutting; we are running out of easily habitable (without extra energy consumption for climate management, water movement, etc.) space; and yet the only measure with which we as a society are concerned is the measure of capital and the individual "freedom" to acquire it (by and large a lie propagated by those who hold it-- how many billionaries are in your family?), even as we consume ourselves into a planetary grave.

    It's not just conceptually consumable items like ink cartridges that could easily be re-used; it's even big-ticket items like cell phones and automobiles--millions of them end up in landfills each year while they're still perfectly good, either because they're artificially locked/behavior-controlled or because manufacturers refuse to continue to support them so that they can sell new models to individuals who demand them in part after succumbing to the forces of marketplace psychology in advertising and in part because of the real social (and thus capital) benefits that such appearances (i.e. a new auto; a new cell phone) provide as a result of the marketplace.

    The "marketplace" is merely the aggregate of individual greed and it mechanistically ignores problems that any single individual feels to be "bigger than themself" and their own desires. If you let the "marketplace" dictate environmental and social policy, you are asking for a system that (like its component individuals) completely ignores the realities of the very survival of our species in favor of giving everyone a better-tasting cola in the run-up to the planetary apocalypse.

    It is time to stop capitalism and corporatism now.
  • Nothing to see here (Score:5, Informative)

    by belmolis (702863) <billposer@nOSpam.alum.mit.edu> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:59PM (#13479088) Homepage

    I'm not sure there's anything to see here folks. TFA doesn't mention what seems to be a crucial fact: Lexmark offers consumers a choice. They can buy the cartridge at the regular price without any restrictions on what they do with it or they can buy it at a discounted price, in return for which they agree to return the cartridge to Lexmark. The boxes are marked differently. There are "prebate" boxes, which carry a notice explaining that these cartridges are to be returned to Lexmark, and there are "regular" boxes.

    It seems to me that this is perfectly fair, so long as the purchaser knows what the deal is up front. Its clear that he or she has a choice as to whether or not to accept the deal since Lexmark is offering both arrangments. You can't say that Lexmark is using monopoly power to force people to buy its products whether they like the contract or not if it explictly offers two different deals. It's possible, of course, that Lexmark or the dealers that sell its products are not up front about the two deals, but the Ninth Circuit, which is known, generally, for its "left-wing" slant and is hardly anti-consumer, didn't find evidence of that. Here's the decision [eff.org] Am I missing something?

    • by KillShill (877105)
      there is NO contract and you don't need a license to use what you bought.

      this is criminal and unethical business is what it is.

      people MAY choose to return them to lexmark but they are under no obligation. putting up more reasonably priced ink on store shelves and then trying to deceive people with a pseudo-legal notice that reminds them they are under a contract... what utter bullshit.

      and as we can clearly see, the ninth-circuit is obviously not competent enough to realize you don't enter into contracts sim
  • by gizmonic (302697) * on Sunday September 04, 2005 @04:59PM (#13479095) Homepage
    Well, obviously, no one has bothered to actually read the decision, just the completely inaccurate write-ups about it.

    The case is not about not being able to refill your ink cartridge, but about the fact that customers were given an option of a cheaper cartridge, with the contractual agreement that, in compensation for the lower price, they would return the cartridge to Lexmark after a single use. Customers had a choice to agree to the contract or not. They could have bought the same exact ink cartridge for a higher price, and not been under any obligation to return it or not refill it.

    Me, personally, I'll never own a Lexmark product, ever, and neither will the company I work for as long as I can help it, thanks to the crap they've pulled in the past. Having said that, in this particular case, I am on their side. Why should a consumer get a benefit, and then complain that they have to actually uphold their end of the deal that gave them the benefit?

    Anyway, the article linked, and the initial post, really have absolutely no bearing on the actual facts. Typical slashdot.
  • by Trick (3648) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:05PM (#13479129)
    Christ, does *every* Slashdot headline have to be misleading and sesationalistic?

    To answer the question in the headline: No, it's not illegal to refill your Lexmark ink cartridges. What's illegal is for a company to buy up empty "one-use" cartridges, fill them back up, and resell them.

    Whether it was warranted for the court to uphold this or not, the decision does not mean what the Slashdot editors would like you to believe.

    Slashdot: News for the Gullible. Stuff that insults your intelligence.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:15PM (#13479219)

    It has to be the worst form of intellectual dishonesty to post a story that is as misleading and erroneous as this. If makes Fox news look 'Fair and Balanced' by comparison.

  • America (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sigaar (733777) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:16PM (#13479225)
    Every time I read something like this I'm more and more glad that I don't live in the U.S.
  • by milesw (91604) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:23PM (#13479266) Homepage
    Excellent point by James made here: http://www.corante.com/copyfight/archives/2005/09/ 02/the_latest_ip_crime_boxwrap_patent_infringement .php#31472 [corante.com]

    The Ninth Circuit's opinion concerns Lexmark's "Prebate" program, in which customers are given a $30 discount on their printer cartridge in exchange for their agreement to return the used cartridge to Lexmark when they are done with it. That's an enforceable contract, plain and simple. Customers had the option of paying $30 more for a cartridge, without being obligated to send it back to Lexmark when they were finished with it.

    The Ninth Circuit simply held that, in exchange for paying less for the cartridge, customers could be contractually bound to return it to Lexmark.
  • by ewhac (5844) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:49PM (#13479427) Homepage Journal

    What have I been telling you people for at least the last ten years? [vwh.net] Why haven't you been paying attention?

    To the apologists who claim that a contract is created between Lexmark and the purchaser, I ask: Where is the informed disclosure? Where is the manifestation of informed assent? Where are the signed copies of the "contract"?

    The reason retail markets are so valuable is because a regular set of rules that is common to all states governs how transactions in the market take place. This regularity is what enables an accelerated transfer of goods and services, which lets money flow around the economy that much faster, benefiting everyone. If you want special terms or conditions you, by definition, are not trading in a retail market. For you to sell your goods in a retail venue is therefore, at best, misleading ("bait-and-switch," anyone?).

    If you want special terms and conditions, get a signed contract. Oh, that's too much trouble? Well, tough shit. And if you try sneaking a contract in under the radar, well, that doesn't prove you have any kind of rights or moral authority, all it proves is you're sneaky.

    This is a crap decision, following on twenty years of previous crap decisions (ProCD vs. Zeidenberg being but one of them).

    Schwab

  • by sjwaste (780063) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:50PM (#13479431)
    I'm not a lawyer, but I am a law student.

    The 9th circuit decisions are some of the most overturned in the history of our nation. Seriously, the judges appointed there are completely out of touch with reality, and this will likely be another case that bites it. I wouldn't worry.
  • Misleading Blurb (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:55PM (#13479466) Homepage Journal
    This blurb is completely misleading. Lexmark is not enforcing this 'contract' on anyone. The suit in question is because a third party manufacturer is trying to claim Lexmark is being misleading and unfair in implementing this policy.

    But, ignoring the actual contents of this article to discuss the bigger issue... This is just another case of shrink-wrap licensing. Take the box home and don't open it, BURN IT. I am sure the cartridge will be none the worse for wear and completely usable.
  • This isn't that bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kraada (300650) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @05:58PM (#13479479)
    From the actual decision (http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/ACRA_v_Lexmark/ACR A_v_Lexmark_9th_circuit_ruling.pdf [eff.org]), "The key issue here is whether Lexmark misleads consumers and engages in unfair competition when it advertises cartridges for sale at a reduced price but with restrictions on their use."

    The issue here is not whether you own the cartridge. The issue is whether you can return the cartridge to a third party manufacturer. Lexmark with this program is saying "We'll give you a rebate on ink if you promise to return the cartridge only to us." (Lexmark argued before the court that they do not require that the user return the cartridge to them when it is empty, only that if they give the empty cartridge to any company, they give it to Lexmark.)

    This "Prebate" license was clearly listed on the outside of the box of the reduced cost toner refills.

    So the question is: can a company say "We'll give you a discount on our product if you don't go ahead and use it in this specific way."? And if so, is it "deceptive business practice" to actually attempt to enforce that agreement? Remember, shrinkwrap licenses on the outside of the box have been deemed enforceable contracts by law. You may not like this, but it has been upheld time and again, and the court, like it or not, rules based on precedent and law (no matter what the varied partisan yahoos think).

    Seems a lot less draconian now doesn't it? I don't think it's a step in a good direction, necessarily, but to all the people shouting "We own nothing!!!" -- that's not what this is about. Really. Read the decision. It's only 14 pages long.

    All that said, it would surprise me if this stood up to appeal (though the makeup of the SCOTUS is enough up in the air that nobody can say anything for sure right now). There is a reason why the 9th Circuit is the most overturned circuit in the country, after all. This is quite an odd restriction to be placed upon the consumer, and though I don't know CA law, it wouldn't surprise me if it was eventually considered an undue and unlawful burden and hence the contract isn't valid. However, whether or not the contract is valid, it may be upheld that Lexmark's business practices weren't deceptive, which is what's actually contended here. So we'll have to see if there's an appeal, who ends up on SCOTUS in the coming months, and where it ends up.

    But it really isn't the end of the universe guys . . .
  • Heh (Score:3, Funny)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @06:08PM (#13479527) Homepage Journal
    I can imagine a fella being arrested for refilling his cartridge. As he's handcuffed, he listens to the lecture of a bald man with a monocule:

    "You only ink twice, Mr. Bond"
  • by callipygian-showsyst (631222) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @06:10PM (#13479535) Homepage
    it seems to indicate that, as far as the "patent" issue is concerend, it's only about commercial remanufacturers:

    According to Lexmark, its post-sale restriction on reusing the Prebate cartridges does not require consumers to return the cartridge at all; it only precludes giving the cartridge to another remanufacturer.

    So, no law will prevent you from refilling it yourself; however a commercial venture can't do it.

  • by acidblood (247709) <.ten.ppced. .ta. .oiced.> on Sunday September 04, 2005 @06:33PM (#13479638) Homepage
    and here's the lowdown.

    First, nowhere is it stated clearly, but I'm fairly sure they're not talking about inkjet cartridges but laser toners. These are the ones I code replacements for.

    The chip in question is the Dallas-Maxim DS2432 [maxim-ic.com]. It's an EEPROM with a twist: it uses some cryptography to perform authentication.

    The idea is that the master (in this case the printer) and the memory can negotiate a shared key, which is done in the factory or during testing -- the chip doesn't use public key encryption, so it requires a key exchange `in the open' which must obviously be done before the chip reaches the customer. (Lexmark has done some ugly implementation mistakes in some printers but nothing THAT bad.)

    So this key allows authentication of both the printer and the memory. After an authenticated read, the memory must compute a hash of some data (including a nonce and the last page read) and send it to the printer. If the hash matches what the printer was expecting, the printer is sure that the memory knows the shared key. (Unless stupid implementation mistakes are made that open the way for replay attacks.)

    Conversely, when the printer asks the memory to commit a write, the memory requests a hash as well, to authenticate the printer. You may ask, `what's the point?' This memory holds data on how many copies were made, serial number and so on. If the memory just blindly wrote what it was told, remanufacturers could keep resetting the contents and reselling the cartridge.

    So how do you build a replacement chip? Easy, get the key somehow and implement the protocols used by this memory on a microcontroller. Using an off-the-shelf DS2432 is impossible because these things have serial numbers with a fixed byte (the `family code') which is different from the same byte in Lexmark's DS2432s -- they probably buy so many of them that they were in a position to ask Dallas-Maxim to make batches of chips with modified family codes. A little bit of security by obscurity, but that wasn't a barrier to us -- it took less than a week to reimplement (in assembly) the DS2432 protocols on my favorite microcontroller architecture, the Texas MSP430.

    Now, I don't like to get into the politics of this thing. Myself, I believe what I'm doing is perfectly fine and in fact the right of the consumer, EULAs and contracts and patents be damned. I wouldn't do it otherwise. Some people complain that Lexmark sold a discounted toner (called Prebate), on the basis that you would return it to them, and you didn't, and that's unfair. What they don't take into account is that your printer comes loaded with a Prebate cartridge, and with a small amount of toner to boot. Many if not most people just use this one cartridge that came with their printer, and keep remanufacturing it. The customer didn't have a choice in this -- if Lexmark offered a regular toner, or no toner at all, when the customer bought the printer, the situation might be less clearcut. As it stands, I see this as Lexmark forcing everyone to pay for a crippled toner, giving them no choice in the matter, and so they're perfectly justified to remanufacture it. (This might not be considered ethical by some, and is most probably illegal, but I don't care.)

    Moreover, the prices they charge are completely absurd. I know this is standard practice in the industry, but I consider this highly immoral. Very few companies possess the technology to make a printer, but many possess the technology to remanufacture toners and cartridges. By imposing legal and technical hurdles on remanufacturing, printer makers are effectively enforcing a monopoly, and the worst thing is, some courts are sanctioning this monopoly. The traditional analogy with auto parts holds very well, and many other frightening scenarios haven't been explored -- what if the printer makers agree on a policy of no longer manufacturing toners and cartridges for printers older than 1 year so as to force everyone to upgrade and m
  • by chill (34294) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @07:43PM (#13479938) Journal
    Wonderful! EXCELLENT news!

    Now, maybe, the promise of the "paperless office" that has been just around the corner for 20 years may become a reality.

    I haven't printed 10 pages all year. My three kids, all in high school, have tons of papers to do. And ALL of them are submitted via e-mail or brought in as a file on a USB key, CD or floppy.

    The few times I need actual photographs from my digital camera I just upload them to Walmart or Shutterfly and pick them up on the way to or from work.

    At the office, maybe 100 pages a month are printed out for 26 employees in a high-tech business. Most of what used to be printed is now
    presented on a projector and distributed via FTP or on a CD-R. No more of this "one printed copy per attendee" waste.

    Think about it. What really do you need paper copies for? How much do you really print? Vote with your wallet and let the ink companies DCMA themselves out of business.

    Good riddance.

      -Charles
    Sales and marketing materials are mass duplicated at Kinko's
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @10:11PM (#13480597) Homepage Journal
    I am going rip one of those "do not remove" matress tags off and stuff it into an ink cartridge. The combined lawsuits will be so complex that the judge's head will explode. (Hmmm. Is blood single use?)
  • by Discopete (316823) on Sunday September 04, 2005 @11:40PM (#13480969) Homepage
    So is Lexmark going to pay for my shipping costs to get my used cartrigdes back to them? I assume that they are going to be recycling all of the used Lexmark cartridges in the world. Oh wait, that's not profitable?
      Tough. You asked for it, you'll get it.

    Perhaps the EPA needs to contact Lexmark about the enviromental damage that their used cartridges are doing...
      If there is no way to legally recycle, then lexmark is creating waste. More than likely toxic waste if you want to get down and dirty with your definitions.

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