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Lexmark Wins Injunction in Toner Cartridge Suit 557

goingincirclez writes "Cnet reports that Lexmark has won an injunction against Static Control Components, Inc., which effectively prohibits the manufacture of recycled / third party toner cartidges. Slashdot covered the initial filing of the suit. SCC also has a rebuttal site that definitely warrants checking out. I would like to think that other printer manufacturers won't follow suit, but I'm not that naive. Better start your trust fund for ink cartridges."
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Lexmark Wins Injunction in Toner Cartridge Suit

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  • by esconsult1 ( 203878 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:23PM (#5407659) Homepage Journal
    Start using Laser Printers.. o wait...
    • by $$$$$exyGal ( 638164 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:10PM (#5408119) Homepage Journal
      I don't get it.

      --sex [slashdot.org]

    • by Anonymous Coward
      They suck.
      I grant you they're often inexpensive to buy, but it seems Lexmark counts on making their profits by selling shoddy, overly-expensive ink and toner cartridges over the clunky two year (if that) lifespan of the cheap printers.
      Lather, rinse, repeat.
      It's an unethical, shameful way of doing business.

      Couldn't they make their company profitable honestly, by making QUALITY products in the first place? Hmmm. But that wouldn't help out the attorneys, would it?

      Just goes to show: patents and copyrights often protect only those who are unable to run honest or efficient businesses, and who don't have the interest in making quality products.
    • "Start using Laser Printers.. o wait..."

      As funny as this is, there is a point to be made here. Roughly a year ago I bought a $300 laser printer made by Brother. (it's $250 today) I'm still on the original cartridge. I'm probably would have bought at least 2 or 3 ink replacement cartridges for my old inkjet by now. Frankly, I don't like futzing with that. Sometimes the ink just evaporates.

      Right now it costs about $60 to replace the cartridge. $85 gets me a cartridge with double the capacity. $180 gets me 6x the capacity of the original cartridge.

      That may be a little steep of an investment, but imagine buying the $250 printer + $180 drum (after the original cartridge is empty a year or two later) and never having to worry about it again.

      Ah those are the daaaaaaaaaaaaays.
  • by jlk_71 ( 308809 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:24PM (#5407674)
    I cannot see how this is ever going to turn out good for the consumer. This will enable the makers of printers to almost charge whatever they want for their cartridges.

    • I was merely annoyed to hear this until I went to a local retailer to buy a black ink cartridge for my Lexmark inkjet. $32.99!!!

      It may have been my subjective viewpoint after reading that article, but this price seems exorbitant (or maybe I'm just a cheap b*stard). It also seemed to me to be higher than the price for cartridges for competing printers.

      I'm disgusted to think I can buy a basic color inkjet printer for about the cost of color + black cartridges for this one. What a waste of resources.
      • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:46PM (#5407900)
        There's a reason those cartridges cost so much. Quality ink is always made from the finest rare Cognac. Since Cognac can cost almost $1000 for a 1 liter bottle, and an inkjet cartridge contains about an ounce of ink, you're actually getting about $30 of cognac, and there's very little markup involved.

        (Or maybe I'm getting this backwards. Fine cognac might be expensive because it's made from inkjet ink... I don't remember; I'll have to look it up.)

      • by Blue Stone ( 582566 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:56PM (#5408011) Homepage Journal
        Well you could always write to Lexmark, and tell them that you're going to boycott their products unless they cease this sort of thing.
        I did. I told them that I was going to dump my Lexmark printer (I got it "free" with my pc) and buy one of their competitors' models, if I didn't hear that they'd dropped the DMCA case.
        Those Canon multi-tanked jobs look quite nice.
        • "I told them that I was going to dump my Lexmark printer and buy one of their competitors' models."

          Please explain how buying another printer hurts the printer industry?

          When I heard about this, I told the four or five people I knew who were planning to buy printers. They didn't buy Lexmark, and I'm glad to have informed them.
    • This will enable the makers of printers to almost charge whatever they want for their cartridges.

      Having worked at Best Buy I can tell you that the markup on toner is how they make their money. Buying at 5% above cost an employee may save a couple bucks on the printer itself, but on ink you save almost half. Not that this is really news to anybody but it's certainly the reason Lexmark doesn't want anyone else selling ink for their printers: it invades their revenue stream.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Isn't it Best Buy's revenue stream you're talking about? Why would Lexmark be interested in keeping Best Buy's margin high?

        I guess you could argue that Lexmark has a similar margin to Best Buy, but you've shown no evidence of that here.
    • by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:12PM (#5408137)
      "I cannot see how this is ever going to turn out good for the consumer. This will enable the makers of printers to almost charge whatever they want for their cartridges."

      *Devil's Advocate Mode*

      On the flip side, there's incentive for printer manufacturers to keep developing new and interesting printers at lower and lower prices. That may not sound all that interesting to you, but I think it's damn cool that I recently bought a laser printer for only $300. I thought those things would forever stay in the > $1000 range.

      As for your comment about them charging whatever they want, that's not entirely true. If they get crazy, people will pay attention to the cost of ink when they go to buy the printer. I can tell you that I've personally done that. I don't own an ink-jet anymore because I think the cost of a small container of ink is ridiculous. If cheap-ink alternatives aren't available, then the manufacturer has done a pretty good job of branding themselves as expensive. Ever look at a row of printer ink and see the sea of $30 price tags?

      I agree with you that it sucks in one way, but it can potentially suck the other way as well. Seems like we either get cheap printers OR we get cheap ink. I've yet to see both.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Ink cartridges and laser toner cartridges are completely different. The real reasons that the ink cartridge is so expensive (compared to the price of a new printer) is both the markup on the cartridges by the manufacturers/retailers and also that the print head is built into the cartridge (at least on the printers I've used). That allows HP/Lewxmark/Canon to make dirt cheap inkjet printers, and charge $35 for a black cartridge. There was an old saying when razors with replacable blades/heads came out: "razor manufacturers don't make money selling razors, they make money selling razor blades". Same thing here. The cheap (but these days, pretty good) print heads on the ink cartridges only have to last a little while, until the ink itself runs out.

        Toner cartridges are just the toner itself, The 'print head' is built into the printer (yes, I know it is not realy a 'print head' but this is just an analogy). That is why the laser printer has to be a little better quality, manufacturing-wise, since the laser drum has to last longer.
  • by SpaceCadetTrav ( 641261 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:25PM (#5407678) Homepage
    Just print everything at work.
  • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:26PM (#5407682)
    Of the people, by the people, for the people?

    Oh...fuck the people. They left that one off.
    • Re:OUR? government (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dattaway ( 3088 )
      You paid your taxes too willingly. Corporations donate voluntarily to barter favors. Government likes to negotiate. Its how an organism grows most effectively.
  • by Alderete ( 12656 ) <`slashdot' `at' `alderete.com'> on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:26PM (#5407687) Homepage
    While I'm certainly not a fan of the DMCA, I'm not sure this is a poor decision by the courts, etc. I think that it's probably reasonable for Lexmark to be able to forbid third-parties from selling supplies, if that's a business decision they want to make.

    However, I don't think that, even if they ultimately win this case all the way up the line, that this is a winning business strategy. I certainly am not going to buy a printer that is tied exclusively to the manufacturer.

    This can't be good publicity for Lexmark; every story is explaining that the manufacturer's supplies are more expensive. That's got to have consumers thinking about buying from HP, or Epson, or whomever.

    I think this is a classic case of shooting yourself in the foot, and then sueing for the privilege of doing so again.
    • I'm not sure I agree with your first paragraph, but I'm definitely in complete agreement with the rest of your post. As it happens, I'm in the market for a printer, and I was exploring various models and options. It's a tough decision; I'm almost grateful to Lexmark for making the decision process easier. Whatever printer I get now, it won't be a Lexmark.
      • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:42PM (#5408498) Homepage Journal
        Whatever printer I get now, it won't be a Lexmark.

        I just called Lexmark on their toll-free phone number to tell them how despicable I thought this lawsuit was. I told them that, unless it was dropped, I would never purchase another Lexmark product nor would I recommend their products to clients or colleagues. If you feel that way, call them:

        In the U.S., their phone number is:
        1-800-LEXMARK (1-800-539-6275)

        Mon - Fri
        9am - 9pm EST
        12pm - 6pm

    • by slow_flight ( 518010 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:33PM (#5407761)
      And when exactly will you be informed that you are purchasing a printer that has a single supplier for refills? Do you suppose that there will be a big, screaming banner on the box stating that for now and forever you will be raped by overpriced single-source refills? Probably not.
      • No, but it isn't difficult to look in the ink cartridge section and see if there are cartridges that fit the printer that arent the printer's brand.
        • How many _consumers_ actually do that when they are buying the printer in the first place?

          No, my friend, that step doesn't happen until the half full cartridge that shipped with the printer runs dry; and then it is too late!

          • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:56PM (#5408649)
            The foundation of a free market includes the aspect of a knowledgable consumer that is aware of all choices available to him and the various up/downsides of those choices. However, it's up to the consumer to discover those choices before the purchase is made; while the producers have to make such information available, they by no means are required to thrust that information at the consumer.

            Part of the problem with what we call the "free market" today is that consumers are not following the "free market" model, and the parent post is an excellent example of this. Most people will buy the cheapest item or the one with the most brand-recognition or so-forth, instead of knowing what the pros and cons of each choice are. They're passive in their market knowledge and thus it's easy to sway them with marketing and advertizing.

            Now, there's nothing stopping a truly informed consumer as in the grandparent post (looking at the 3rd party resellers for a given model) from being empowered as a consumer as per the free market model (*). And more power to those that actually do this, as opposed to making a purchasing decision blindly.

            (*) Of course, EULAs that prevent product benchmarks and comparisons and other tactics can get in the way, but for the most part, the information is out there, you just need to find it.

        • That's the whole point, isn't it? You could buy a cartridge from another company that would fit in your Lexmark printer. They're going to court to try and make it so you can't do that any more.

          If they win the court decision, and if it doesn't hurt their market share, other companies will do the same thing. Or maybe they will anyway. Manufacturers might figure that if they all screw the consumer simultaneously, they can all get rich together.

      • You've nailed it on the head. The current sales scheme relies on the ignorance of the customer at the time of purchase ("Cheap printer? OK!"). That's almost as bad as an outright bait and switch.

        What next? Is Nabisco going to start telling me which brand of milk I have to use on my cereal? Will Windows require me to own a Microsoft mouse? Will my amplifier require their brand of speakers? Will my GE lamp only work with their light bulbs (don't get any ideas, GE)?
      • And when exactly will you be informed that you are purchasing a printer that has a single supplier for refills? Do you suppose that there will be a big, screaming banner on the box stating that for now and forever you will be raped by overpriced single-source refills? Probably not.

        Well I sell/upgrade/repair computers and people ask me all the time "What is the best __________ ?" When they ask *ME* about printers I tell them not to buy Lexmark. I think they are junk anyway. This is just one more issue.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:33PM (#5407765)
      While I'm certainly not a fan of the DMCA, I'm not sure this is a poor decision by the courts, etc. I think that it's probably reasonable for Lexmark to be able to forbid third-parties from selling supplies, if that's a business decision they want to make.

      No, it's not. It's not reasonable for GM to put an additive in a GM-brand gas, and have GM cars only run on that. It's not reasonable for Lexmark to force you to use lexmark-brand ink.

      Now, if they were to say that using 3rd-party ink violated the warranty, and detected that, so if you had a printer gunged up by a cheap knock-off ink they wouldn't replace it, then that's reasonable. But a blanket "you can't use it" isn't.
      • No, it's not. It's not reasonable for GM to put an additive in a GM-brand gas, and have GM cars only run on that. It's not reasonable for Lexmark to force you to use lexmark-brand ink.

        Now, if they were to say that using 3rd-party ink violated the warranty, and detected that, so if you had a printer gunged up by a cheap knock-off ink they wouldn't replace it, then that's reasonable. But a blanket "you can't use it" isn't.

        Actually your car analogy reminds me of an interesting point. It is illegal for vehicle manufacturers to require that you use only their replacable parts (I'm talking oil, filters, etc, not engines and whatnot). It is legal for them to void your warranty for using non OEM parts only if they provide them to you free of charge.

        Wouldn't that be a hoot - you can tell me I can only use Lexmark cartridges, void my warranty if I don't, but you have to give them to me for free. :)
    • by sweetooth ( 21075 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:36PM (#5407796) Homepage
      You are joking right? Have you looked at the prices of Epson or HP cartridges? They are horribly expensive just like the Lexmark supplies. Also, if companies like Lexmark are allowed to decide what manufacturers are allowed to sell supplies for thier printers what is to stop car manufacturers from forcing car buyers to purchase specific types of gasoline or oil? Sure it's not a perfect analogy but it's close enough. It should be the consumers right to use whatever supplies they want with thier printer. You did buy it after all. What's the next step? Only being allowed to you Lexmark approved paper in your printer? I'm sure it will only be 100-200% more than the bargain brand that you were using before.

      This is exactly why I have an old HP LaserJet 4 Plus that I got off of ebay. Every once in a while the toner cartridge will need to be replaced, but for my needs I fill the cartridge once a year or so with a $14 refill kit. The last ink jet printer I had used ink like crazy, and if you didn't use all the ink up they dried out and you had to prelace them anyway. Color cartridges for the POS were $45 and the black cartridge was $35. I may as well have thrown the printer away and bought a new one every time at those prices.
      • by Alyeska ( 611286 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:50PM (#5407935) Homepage
        I may as well have thrown the printer away and bought a new one every time at those prices.

        Some time ago, friends of mine here (in AK) began doing just that. They did the math, discovered it was cheaper to buy a new printer from [major membership-type warehouse outlet] each time a cartridge ran out. Perfectly good printers became targets for a wide variety of projectile weapons.

    • How is it reasonable for Lexmark to forbid others from operating in the refill market? It's not like they are preventing the sale of forged Lexmark products, rather they are trying to stop consumers reusing their cartridges.

      Ford cannot stop other manufacturers offering alternative filter elements for their carburettors, for example. Why should a printer manufacturer be any different?
      • Have you ever had to replace a broken tail-light? Auto manufacturers *are* copyrighting their designs only to prevent competitors from providing inexpensive replacement parts.
    • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:44PM (#5407883) Homepage
      Behold the awesome power of software - Anybody can make 3rd parts 'parts' to fit a commercial product, but just because now you put a 'smart' part in with copyright software it's suddenly a different world! You can't make those w/o a license, you can't even reverse engineer them anymore if there's some kind of 'protective' device you now have to circumvent. It's like I observed long ago about: if a product has a defective part, you can usually legally force the manufacturer to repair or replace it; but now if the product has defective software then pfft, you're screwed.
    • in other words -

      don't you worry about the laws, little one, the market will decide in any case.


      it may well be true that in this case the market will punish, and it also may be true that this decision was the correct interpretation of the law, but we should be no less concerned with the result or its ramifications.

      think about what the post said, 'I think that it's probably reasonable for Lexmark to be able to forbid third-parties from selling supplies'. no - it is not at all reasonable for one manufacturer to control not only its product but an entire industry around it.
    • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <<splisken06> <at> <email.com>> on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:54PM (#5407995)
      demanded that you buy gas exclusively from them, put a chip in the gas tank to stop you from buying elsewhere and then sued someone who developed a work-around, would you be so understanding?

      What about if you had to use Lexmark-certified paper in the printer, and there was a thin chip layer on each sheet that proved that it was approved?

      Lexmark is using a technological macguffin and a bad, bad law to interfere with how you use your purchased product. The chip is really only there to invoke the DMCA. It's "purpose" beyond that is a sham. Lexmark is unwilling to compete on either quality or price on their inks. They are using a bad lawsuit to freeze out a legitimate market.

    • The DMCA rests on the copyright clause. The copyright clause is established specifically to promote the advancement of the arts and sciences. Forbidding tinkering, disassembly, improvement of a bought and paid for item retards the advancement of the arts and sciences. This is unconstitutional on those grounds and the injunction should not have been given.
    • by Oliver Wendell Jones ( 158103 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:55PM (#5408006)
      What I found ironic is that my employer has been purchasing Lexmark brand toner cartridges for our HP laser printers...

      But they don't want other companies to do that?
    • While I'm certainly not a fan of the DMCA, I'm not sure this is a poor decision by the courts, etc. I think that it's probably reasonable for Lexmark to be able to forbid third-parties from selling supplies, if that's a business decision they want to make.
      Wouldn't it be an even better business decision for lexmark to forbid other comapanies from making printers at all? It's the same thing.
  • by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:27PM (#5407691)

    ...I'm gonna start looking for a used DECwriter for my printing needs. Let's see 'em put some damned chip in a printer ribbon sool.


  • by digitalgimpus ( 468277 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:28PM (#5407694) Homepage
    I wish HP would create a universal cartridge, that just held ink. The head were separate.

    Would keep inc prices low, hence make their products enticing... and they can keep whatever patents they want to themselves.

    A cartridge should just hold ink.
    • You may think this will reduce prices, but it does so at the expense of printing quality.

      HP's system isn't all that unreasonable, since the ink tanks are held in vacuum seal and thus don't get any exposure to outside air, so the ink doesn't dry out. This is a problem with Canon's ink cartridges, since the ink is held inside a suspension sponge.

      The nozzles in the printhead get dried out over time, which means that when you use up the ink inside a cartridge and try to refill it, you're using a crippled printhead. Nozzles get clogged from air exposure to residue ink after use, and pickup of contaminant particles (airborne and paper dust). I believe the average of clogged print nozzles in a printhead when you exhaust the ink supply in HP's traditional inkjet cartridges is around 25%.

      Of course, the distribution of that can be rather uneven, which means that you might have one color that barely prints, or one edge of the printhead that doesn't print properly.

      So, in principle, yes, a cartridge should just hold ink, but realistically speaking, HP's system ensures better printing quality.
  • Boycott Lexmark (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kingsqueak ( 18917 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:28PM (#5407698)
    Simple, don't buy their products any longer. If people stay informed and boycott the manufacturer's that try to rope us into monopolistic situations they might hesitate next time.
  • A Rebttal? (Score:5, Funny)

    by phraktyl ( 92649 ) <wyatt@dra g g o o .com> on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:28PM (#5407702) Homepage Journal
    Being the responsible /. user I am, I quickly googled for rebttal to shed some light on this obviously new technology. Google, however, pointed out that what the poster meant was *rental*.

    So, from the original story, the SCC has a rental site that warrents checking out. I'm not sure how they mean to make a profit on renting out ink cartridges, but more power to them!
  • by Znonymous Coward ( 615009 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:29PM (#5407715) Journal
    I mean seriously, why do people cling to such an outdated technology? When it comes to documents why not just print to PDF and email it?

    Read it on the screen people, not on paper!
    • by IIRCAFAIKIANAL ( 572786 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:32PM (#5407757) Journal
      Because my monitor is too heavy to bring on the train. And there's no plugs.

      I guess I could tape a printout to the monitor, and put the monitor on a cart of some kind... Oh wait, we don't want to print.

      I guess I could read the pdf and commit it to memory. D'oh, but another person can't read my mind (at least since I lined my toque with tinfoil).

      Well, I'm out of ideas...

      • hmm - everyone has such insightful things to say. Let me print this thread out to bring on my morning commute.

        wait a second!



    • My first reaction was to mod you down as a troll, but instead I'll reply.

      • It's hard to read a PDF when you printed directions to take with you in your car
      • The embassy that I'm applying for a visa at doesn't take PDFs, just paper
      • While I know that PDF has the capability of editing in place, I still prefer a pen and paper when it comes to proofreading dodumentation
      • The vi quick ref card that I printed and put up next to my monitor is more useful than switching to the webpage everytime I forget an option.

      Just 4 things I printed just this morning...

  • Oh wait...nevermind.

    In other news: HP buys Gillette

    Ink is the only thing that HP makes money on these days. I wouldn't be surprised if inkjets become disposable soon. Gillette has this racket down pat.
    • HP, at least, already treats their inkjets as disposable. Just try finding new drivers from HP for products that are more than three (estimate) years old.

      I have a HP720, which had some special features with the HP driver, but they stopped updating them at win98 (no 2000, ME or XP). Purchased it in 98 when it was still on the top part of the product line.
  • Create a good printer with an open spec on cartridges and make them refillable (sell the refill kits). It's better for consumers, it's better for the environment and the printer company can still make good profits.

    Oh wait, I forgot all businesses (especially HP who makes enormous profit off cartridges) are essentially C. Montgomery Burns. If they could block the sun, they would.
  • by Sgs-Cruz ( 526085 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:30PM (#5407720) Homepage Journal
    Because paying things like $40 [officedepot.com] (American that is... try like $60 up here in Canada) for a stinking ink cartridge is the most fair thing in the world. As long as there the third-party companies are not using the original companies name on their ink-cartridge, I don't see how they're breaking the law. Ford and GM have all the rights in the world to sell high-priced replacement parts, but people are perfectly free to use cheap Taiwanese replacements. The Big Three combat this using a thing called Marketing.

    If the genuine Lexmark ink cartridges are that good, then they shouldn't have a problem convincing people to buy genuine ones. Oh wait... the ink cartridges are only expensive because of an artificial monopoly on replacement parts? Not because they're actually that good? Yeah, that's what I thought.

  • Good News for Dell (Score:5, Informative)

    by crow ( 16139 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:30PM (#5407726) Homepage Journal
    This is good news for Dell. They'll be selling their own printers in about a month, and anything that makes other manufacturers look bad will help them gain marketshare. What will be interesting is to see how Dell plays in the ink cartridge business. Will they try to be like everyone else, or will they try to do to ink prices what they've done to PC prices?
  • by seanadams.com ( 463190 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:31PM (#5407736) Homepage
    I bought their Optra C710 color laser about a year. I thought I was getting a deal at $1200, but it is the worst printer I have ever owned.

    It came with all toner cartridges only 25% filled. This was not mentioned anywhere on the box or on the web site where I ordered.

    The printer has actually functioned maybe half of the time that we've owned it. Two on-site service calls later, and we're still having problems:

    • Why does it say paper jam when there is no paper jam?
    • "Coating roll life warning" and "transfer belt warning" come up all the time, even right after fresh ones are installed
    • Duplexing option jams on every 100th sheet
    • Print often seems to stick to the transfer belt and gets "ghosted" onto subsequent pages
    • The printer just disappears from the network at least once per day and needs a hard reboot

    In contrast, our HP laserjet has NEVER missed a beat. Look I know this is not a representative sample or anything, but there are clearly DESIGN flaws with this printer and it should not be on the market. Even after multiple service calls it does not work.
  • I refuse to pay these exorbitant ink prices! Fortunately my HP is old enough that the cartridge isn't chipped.

    I'll drill holes in the cartridge and buy ink in bulk if I have to.

    At work, we use arrays of inkjet cartridges to print names and addresses on high-volume web presses. They line up four of them, pull of the ink reservoir, and snap on a tube running to a bucket of ink. Works great.
  • by FuzzyDaddy ( 584528 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:31PM (#5407744) Journal
    The suit is being filed under the DMCA because they circumvented the sensor on the printer.

    How the hell do these toner cartridges affect the printer manufacturer's copyright? DMCA is supposed to be about protecting so-called intellectual property. That clearly is NOT the use to which it is being put here.

    What's next? My "Check Engine Soon" light will be programmed to come on from time to time and the on-board computer will make the car run badly until the proper "reset" signal is used? And don't try to figure out the reset code yourself - you'd be in violation of the DMCA!

  • While I am sure HP won't do this, a Minolta or the like could sell their wares based on the fact that inexspensive third party cartridges are available for them. As a prospective buyer, I would definitely see this as a plus. Lexmark's doing this is like Ford making you buy Ford branded gasoline or tires for your car. It's crap, it's a step backward and it'll hurt them in the long run.
  • "In other news, General Motors win a successful injunction against Michelin for producing replacement tyres for their cars. Now only GM's proprietary brands may be used..."

    Surely this must be anti-competitive? If a company providing the hardware has exclusive rights over parts needed to use that hardware, then they have a monopoly in the sense they can charge WTF they like for those consumables. It's ludicrous.

    But then again, maybe market forces will decide this one... people will usually move away from the restrictive rip-off brands, as long as there is an alternative.
  • Oh no! (Score:4, Funny)

    by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <rustyp AT freeshell DOT org> on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:39PM (#5407821) Homepage Journal
    The lowest quality brand of printer on the market has decided that people can't copy their cartridges!

    What's next?

    Will it be illegal to make generic versions of RC Cola?

    Illegal to make work-alikes to "No-Ad" sunblock?

    No one will be able to make anything that looks like a Ford Pinto [bob2000.com]? Or one of these cars? [uglycars.co.uk]

    What is this world coming to!

    Well, at least I can still buy Tandy 5000 [attrition.org] compatible computers.
  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:39PM (#5407831)
    Exepect such chips to appear in every kind of items where you have consummable, or additional part needed. Now that a judgement has been upholded that you can use the DMCA to stamp out somebody making a cheaper replacement, you can artificially make your own monopoly. Buy Ford Tire ? We have this new chip we check for air pressure in it ! Secure and stuff. You want to replace it ? Oh, bad luck you have to do it at our condition in a ford garage. Oh, and don't try to put another tire the car won't start (security check on tire pressure fail).

    We do not live in republic or democracy we live in a Corporatocracy.
  • I'm not one to support the DMCA, but to "...start a trust fund" for toner cartriages? Give me a break. I mean, come on - there's still plenty of competiton out there for laser printers in the first place. Even if you are the owner of a Lexmark printer, they still have a reason to keep costs reasonable so that you won't jump ship to an HP LaserJet.

    Having said that, I think that SSC's reply is very reasonable and worth supporting. They are asking for specific exemption to the DMCA which would really help independent research or cloning for competing products in specific instances.

  • It's at times like this that I take some comfort in not being american.

    The DMCA is increasingly bringing the entire concept of Law into disrepute, challenging even the USPTO's unenviable reputation for crass stupidity.

    How can anyone build a framework of laws which, on the one hand (anti-trust), tries to constrain monopolies and, on the other hand (DMCA), protects those very monopolies from the inadequacy of their own protection mechanisms?

    As, I believe, I've said before, the DMCA is an absurd proposition in the first place, it appears to work as follows:-

    Corporation X owns some intellectual property Y.
    X asserts either copyright and/or patent rights to Y thereby making it illegal for others to "steal".
    Not everyone else is law-abiding so X devises a technical mechanism Z to prevent theft.
    Some law-breakers are smarter than X and find a way round Z.
    The DMCA makes it illegal for the law breakers, who ignored the first law, to bypass Z.

    Problem solved? Will all the law-breakers suddenly think "oh, this'll mean breaking two laws not one, so I won't do it!"

    I don't think so. My only real worry though is that we'll probably have similar acts of legal stupidity here in the UK sooner or later.
  • Who says that old computer is junk? The day may come when you can't buy a new computer without DRM and case screws with RFID tags that notify the manufacturer whenever you take the cover off. I guess I'll hang on to my old LaserJet III.

    On the up side, maybe if this law becomes widespread, I won't get any more toner cartradge spam.
  • by ausoleil ( 322752 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:49PM (#5407931) Homepage
    ...right now, they are concerned about the cash cow of their printers. They specifically designed a machine that requires their own cartridges and then candied it over with claims of higher quality, etc. Even the average consumer knows better than that -- they created a system that hides behind litigation to protect their market share.

    That's fine, but the market will have the last word -- for example, I will not buy a Lexmark printer. It won't be because of a political statement of any kind but rather one based on practicality -- they have increased their total cost of ownership to the point where it doesn't make sense for me to go and purchase their gear.

    If ongoing consumables gets to be unreasonable, due to a legally mandated monopoly, people will move away from existing installations as well.
  • Dot Matrix! (Score:5, Funny)

    by xchino ( 591175 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:50PM (#5407946)
    I'm telling you man, it's the printer of the future! You don't have to replace ink! It tells you when your printing has start, and finished through an excellent system of horrible screeching! You can buy a box of paper and never have to reload a tray! Plus, you get alot of extra strips of paper with the perforated tracks, which you can use to make nests for some of the local fauna!

  • by THEbwana ( 42694 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:55PM (#5407997)
    Well - this problem seems to be impacting the ppl from North America. Check below for the current status within the EU - if someone knows of any new developments - please post!

    Dow Jones Business News
    EU Parliament Bans Proprietory Printer Cartridge Policy
    Wednesday December 18, 10:40 am ET

    BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- In a blow to Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ - News; HP) and other printer companies, the European Parliament voted unanimously Wednesday to ban them from forcing consumers to buy manufacturers' own-brand ink refills.

    The printer-ink provision was included in a last-minute amendment to a bill requiring manufacturers of electronic goods to pay for recycling them. Conservatives supported it as a consumer-friendly action, while environmentalists welcomed it as a green measure.

    "Consumers who are fed up with being ripped off when they need to replace the ink cartridges in their computer printers will be pleased with the requirement," said Robert Goodwill, a Conservative member of the parliament who sponsored the amendment.

    The bill comes into effect in 2006.

    Many color printers cost about EUR100 to buy, but replacement cartridges run as much as EUR40 each, Goodwill said. Companies have sprung up offering cheaper cartridge ink refills. But Goodwill said manufacturers had limited the use of the refills by installing computer chips on their original cartridges.

    "When the cartridges are refilled, the printer comes up with an error message and many users are forced to buy expensive new cartridges from manufacturers," Goodwill said.

    The practice may be harmful to the environment, as it limits recycling, and to consumers, but it has been beneficial to printer companies. H-P's ink and toner refills bring in about $10 billion annually, or about 15% of its annual revenue.

    H-P dominates the market. According to consulting company CAP, H-P now has 44% of the $11 billion West-European market for printer ink, with Seiko Corp.'s Epson (J.SKO) unit with about 25%, Canon Inc. (CAJ) with 18% and Lexmark International Inc. (NYSE:LXK - News) with 10%.

    Suppliers who refill ink cartridges or sell knockoffs have about one-fourth of the market, according to CAP. But their share is static.

    Their complaints have attracted the attention of European Union Competition Commissioner Mario Monti. In May, he said regulators were looking into possible anticompetitive behavior by some printer makers.

    "There's probably a case here for us," Monti said at the time. Since then, the Commission has been silent on the issue.

    Complaints from refillers also attracted parliamentarian Goodwill. He visited the local Cartridge World shop in York and came away determined to insert the amendment into the larger bill about recycling of electronics goods. He and a Green parliamentarian first inserted the amendment back in October.

    But the German government supported the printer companies' attempts to remove it this week. Bargaining between parliamentarians and governments went until 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, Goodwill said.

    "The Germans wanted to defend their chemical companies which make this ink for the printer companies," he said. "When we threatened to hold up the entire recycling bill, they finally dropped their objections."

    The printer companies still can appeal to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. H-P declined to comment. Spokespeople for Canon and Lexmark said they were unaware of the issue.

    -By William Echikson, Dow Jones Newswires; 32-2-285-0134; william.echikson@ dowjones.com

    Dow Jones Newswires
    12-18-02 1040ET
  • by thorrbjorn ( 321412 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @02:59PM (#5408034)
    Yes, I'm serious. This court ruling makes me very happy.

    Why? The DMCA is an unjust law, and as someone wiser than I once said, the best way to get an unjust law struck down is to vigorously enforce it.

    Joe and Jane Sixpack don't care about some Russian company's software or some professors speach. They probably aren't even aware of them. But if they can't get cheap ink cartriges anymore ... that might get their attention.
  • by jACL ( 75401 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:05PM (#5408083)
    From a Businessweek article [businessweek.com]: 'More important, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ), which dominates both the printer and the $7 billion toner market, has no intention of following Lexmark's course. "We believe in customer choice," says Pradeep Jotwani, the senior vice-president who heads HP's lucrative imaging-supplies business. "If they want to buy from remanufacturers, that's fine. It's our job to make them not want to."'
  • by hirschma ( 187820 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:06PM (#5408092)

    I subvert Lexmark's plans by refilling my old toner carts with stuff from this vendor [tonerrefillkits.com]. While it's somewhat more difficult a process than just installing a new cart, I save over $150 with each refill.

    Not affiliated with TonerRefillKits.com, just a happy customer. Don't be put off by their crappy website - the stuff ships out quick, is fairly priced, and works as advertised.

  • I worked at SCC (Score:4, Interesting)

    by unix guy ( 163468 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:12PM (#5408132) Homepage
    Although I've not been at SCC for over 6 years, I must commend SCC on their uncanny ability to reverse-engineer ANYTHING related to printer cartidges. While I was there HP released a cartridge purported to be impossible to open (5Si), therefore impossible to recondition. These guys immediately manufactured a machine designed to cut them open without harm, and all the parts to refit it. Copyright infringement is not something I would accuse them of, and being extremely good at what they do should not be against the law.
  • Good riddance (Score:3, Informative)

    by vasqzr ( 619165 ) <vasqzr AT netscape DOT net> on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:12PM (#5408139)

    As an "IT Manager" I get 2-10 calls a day from people trying to sell me toner cartridges. The usual pitch goes something like this:

    "Hello Mr. Smith, my name is Todd and I'm calling from ABC products. We develop our own high tech toner cartridges and they are the best on the market. What I'd like to do is send you a cartridge; at no cost to you, so can you can see our quality product."

    I know of a client who actually went along with it, and they were shipped a pallet of these things and billed for like $2,100.

    Anyway...I have always found that genuine HP cartridges are the best value. We buy so many of them, we only pay a few bucks more than the imitations. Plus, even my users can tell when we've put a imitation cartridge in, instead of the genuine HP toner.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:16PM (#5408175)
    Interesting bit of irony...

    The lead author of the DMCA, Rep. Howard Coble [house.gov] is from North Carolina, where Static Control Components is located. It was almost even more ironic, since SCC is located in the 2nd Congressional district [house.gov], just about 10 miles east of Coble's own district (the 6th [weblogs.com]).

    I hope the jerkoff really hears about it from his constituents... (I live in the N.C. 10th district; his office ignored me the last two times I called to chat.)


  • Clarification (Score:3, Informative)

    by Davethewaveslave ( 641693 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:18PM (#5408205)
    It sounds to me like the printers in question are two very specific printers. My understanding is that Lexmark sells these printers at a lower cost because the buyers are expected to recycle all of their cartridges through Lexmark. The basic idea being that Lexmark will make their money back through cartridge sales.

    These printers are apparently also available without the chip, but at a higher initial cost. This allows the buyer to obtain their ink from anyone and gives Lexmark a one-time profit.

    So if my understanding is correct, Lexmark is only protecting their sales plan for these printers. They are not insinuating that third-parties should not be able to distribute their ink for Lexmark devices, rather, they want to prevent third-parties from manufacturing ink for THESE devices.

    I am no fan of the DMCA, but I can certainly understand Lexmark's position in this matter. If the buyer purchased the printer at a lower initial cost with the understanding that they would need to recycle their cartridges through Lexmark, then I don't see why another company should be allowed to interfere by circumventing the agreement.

    Then again, was there really an "agreement" with the consumer?

    • Re:Clarification (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pemdas ( 33265 )
      While I can sympathize with Lexmark if this is the case, there's a fundamental issue here: what just happened was essentially legislative affirmation of the right to a business model.

      More and more people seem to be under the impression that such a right exists, somehow. Somehow the collective thought of this nation has been convinced that if a business model has worked in the past, the government should support that business model in the future.

      It's getting scarily pervasive; in the past it's shown up as subsidies for farming/steel/whatever industry from the government, but more and more frequently it's rearing its ugly head in the realm of copyright and intellectual property. At least the previous incarnations had the argument of national security nominally on their side.

      Like I said, I'm sorry that this model doesn't work for Lexmark (without government mandates!), but the right thing to do is to try a different model, not seek legislative relief! There is no fundamental right to have a specific business model work, and our government has absolutely no compelling interest of the people at stake when it intervenes in situations like this.

  • by Colonel Panic ( 15235 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:20PM (#5408232)
    I thought there were some pretty high profile cases many years ago where one of the razor makers (Gillette?) tried to shut out other companies from making blades compatible with their razors but it was ruled that they could not restrict other blade makers.

    Also, wasn't there a case where Polaroid tried to keep (Kodak? or was it the other way around) from making film for their cameras? (and then in the Mainframe arena there was some lawsuit between IBM and Amdahl where IBM was trying to keep Amdahl's tape units out of IBM's mainframes - IBM lost as I recall). These are all pretty fuzzy rememberances, perhaps someone who knows these cases could comment?

    Anyway, something seems pretty screwy here, it seems like there is a lot of precedent out there that is totally opposite of this ruling.
  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <alizard@NOspAM.ecis.com> on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:21PM (#5408248) Homepage
    What is the going rate for a judge? I wonder who at Lexmark knows the answer to this question?

    Alternately, this was an honest decision made by a judge so technologically illiterate that he can't understand the issues and came to his decision by counting the lawyers at the defendants and plaintiff's tables.

    IIRC, there are court precedents that say that if a company is a franchise vendor, selling franchises does NOT mean you can force the franchisees to buy only from the franchise vendors, and I think there are other examples of situations similar to that one where the courts turned thumbs down on the kind of restraint of trade Lexmark is trying to pull using the DMCA.

  • by Syn Ack ( 3105 ) <slashdot@notFORTRANme.ca minus language> on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:26PM (#5408309) Homepage

    There have been several cases/laws brought to light in order to allow someone to use aftermarket parts to repair their car. You can go down to your local Canadian Tire (or PEP Boys in the US) and buy just about any replacement part for your car. Brakes, Brake pads, window motors, water pumps, gas tanks, just about anything you need to repair the mechanicals of a car.

    Question... How is a printer any different? If my engine burned out I shouldn't have to go and buy a new engine! If I want to go to the scrap yard and perhaps get one pulled from a wreck that's my legal right. How can this same argument not be applied to the toner cartridge in a printer? Better yet if you assoicate toner to gas imagine if the gas in your car was vehicle specific. Having to buy GM gas from GM gas stations! That's not just wrong it's completely INSANE!

    I just payed $84cdn to get new ink for my Canon as I elected to buy the Canon brand. However I didn't see a choice when I was in the store, it was Canon or nothing for my Canon printer. Sure I could have bought one of those

    Wow, today is a dark day for competition indeed!

    Syn Ack.

    - Calgon take me away!
  • by danoatvulaw ( 625376 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:27PM (#5408323)
    Yes, Lexmark got an injunction... a PRELIMINARY one. That only means that those which they are suing, Static Control, cannot make/sell/whatever is in the injunction, pending the outcome of the case. It DOES NOT mean that NO ONE can manufacture replacement cartridges. It is only a temporary measure to halt production in the meantime until there is a judgment. While not good for Static Control, it does NOT signal the death knell for cartridge replacement.
  • There was a time when monopolies and trusts were seen as an integral part of thriving capitalism. And now, practices like this, selling the base system at a loss and making money by gouging on components, are seen as common as well.

    It's a bait and switch. They lure the customer in with a low-priced, high-powered printer and then snag him on the very expensive replacement cartridges.

    Though they have a monopoly, it's not a trust situation because Lexmark isn't the only company that sells printers. But as far as I understand, all printer manufacturers follow this policy.

    Are there any that don't? Are there any printer manufacturers that sell their printers and inks at market costs? Are there any who don't actively discourage the use of cheap recycled/replacement ink catridges?
  • by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @03:55PM (#5408641) Journal
    Several years ago, HP was sued by a 3rd party printer supplies company. At the time, HP's printer warranties required that you buy replacement supplies from HP and the 3rd party vendor successfully argued that was an unfair business practice.

    Does anyone remember who the litigant was and when the suit happened? As I understand it, that suit opened up the 3rd party printer supplier industry.

  • by unicorn ( 8060 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @04:07PM (#5408745)
    One thing to consider. The cartridges in question, are *not* necessary for the printer.

    Lexmark makes 2 different kinds of catridges for that printer. One kind, is sold at a higher price, and is yours. Free and clear. Once you buy it, you can refill to your hearts content.

    The catridges, that have the chip embedded, are sold under a separate program. And they are referred to as "prebate" cartriges. You pay less for them up front. And are obligated to return the cartridge to Lexmark (at their expense) after one use.

    The chips that are the basis of the lawsuit, are a way of reusing the "prebate" cartridges, rather than sending them back as you agreed when you bought it from Lexmark.

    Lexmark VERY clearly says, all over their website. That if you want to refill catridges, just buy the "full price" product, and go at it.

    Basically what this all boils down to, is SCC is selling a chip that allows the circumvention of an agreement that consumers made with Lexmark. And on that basis, I really don't see what the big fuss is about.
  • So boycott Lexmark (Score:3, Informative)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @05:04PM (#5409218)
    Let them know that their conduct is unacceptable.

    Buy from some company who are trying to produce products which will reduce your costs.

    The Kyocera ecosys printers spring to mind.
  • by Windcatcher ( 566458 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @06:59PM (#5410147)
    This action by Lexmark is nothing more than a BLATANT attempt by a manufacturer to create an artificial monopoly. It is in NO WAY limited to the consumer inkjet industry, and there is NO LAW--anywhere--that gives a U.S. company the right to create such a monopoly. If anything, SCC should investigate if Lexmark has violated the Sherman anti-trust act.

    This behavior can be applied to ANY industry in which there are consumables:

    - printers needing special paper containing "code" in the form of an IR- or UV-readable barcode,

    - electric shavers containing an embedded chip in the cutter heads that tells the unit the cutter was made by the same manufacturer,

    - chips in ANY recordable-mdeia form factor that validates the manufacturer,

    - chips in ANY auto part that perform manufacturer validation,

    - chips in common BATTERIES that force you to use batteries branded by a certain manufacturer or their partners,

    - chips in, say, headphones that require that you use them with stereo equipment made by the same manufacturer,

    and on and on. The list is countless. Just look around your room, office, or house and ask yourself if there is ANYTHING there that occasionally requires replacement parts. ANYTHING. Anything at all.

    THIS is just how bad the DMCA has become. This is how much it can and is being abused. It's got to go.
  • by LittleLebowskiUrbanA ( 619114 ) on Friday February 28, 2003 @09:11PM (#5410789) Homepage Journal
    I bought a used HP 1100 for $86 shipped on eBay and I couldn't be happier. Most laserjet printers are supported in Linux and it seems from the little research I did, there's a whole industry devoted to refurbishing and reselling laserjets, especially HPs. After a year of cursing over trying to get a Lexmark inkjet running in Linux, it was wonderful to see the HP running on my Samba box after about 40 seconds of configuration.
    Save your color printouts for an inkjet and try a laserjet for everything else! You'll save money in the long run.
  • by Joe Wagner ( 547696 ) on Saturday March 01, 2003 @12:06AM (#5411457) Homepage
    Here are my comments, which are being submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office:

    The U.S. Copyright Office should not be used as an substitute yet uber-patent office. By adding any sort trivial addition to a mechanical device to lay a DMCA claim, one can create in effect a de facto patent protection of a commercial device, but with a much longer or unlimited term, and with a free ride of enforcement by the U.S. Government. This is clearly not what Copyrights are intended to protect.

    Imagine an automotive company wishes to force people to purchase only tires manufactured by themselves. They first attempt to force consumer choice by patenting the idea of round tires, but the US Patent Office rules (correctly) that their design has not unique and denies the application. All the MBA's in upper management are crushed.

    "Fear not," their lawyers cry, "we'll get something better...we'll get you protection -- and not for a patent's measly 20 years [uspto.gov]. No we'll give you 120 years [copyright.gov] of protection...AND the U.S. Government will investigate violations and enforce this 'uber-patent' for you."

    "But How?" cry the hopeful executives grateful disbelief.
    "By adding a dime's worth of electronic tagging on the tire--we'll call it a Quality Verification Tag that says the tire is an 'original and not remanufacturered [com.com]' and have the car check for that before it starts."
    "But won't our better priced competitors just put the same dime's worth magic in their tires and we'll be back where we started?" wails a VP from under the table of the conference room where they've all gathered.
    "No, because we'll say their tires infringe on our..."
    "...Patents?..." offers a hopeful senior manager.
    "No--and here's the trick--it infringes on our Copyrights, unjustly defeating our 'technological controls, thereby allowing unauthorized access [lexmark.com]' to the car."
    "But the car's owner...isn't he already the, um, owner of the car and can do what he wants with his property?" worries the CEO aloud. "Isn't he allowed to buy from the competition? Won't we have to forced him to signed a service contract or something that say he must make all future purchases from us."
    "Not with the DMCA. Fear not about competition or the previously notions of an unrestrained free market." assures the now quite confident counsel, "It's nice as 'general principle [internet.com]' but," he says as he smiles "public policy certainly does not support copyright infringement and violations of the DMCA in the name of competition [uscourts.gov]...."


    For those concerned that 120 years isn't long enough, a company needs only every 119 years just to change the "Quality Verification Tag" and get a whole new Copyright to fend off any and all competition -- for literally until the end of time (or at least the end of the DMCA)." Disney's aspirations ain't go nothin' on Lexmark.

    Those who help create the U.S. Constitution wrote in Article I, section 8,

    "Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for
    limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries..." [Note: though already clear, emphasis added]
    They are surely sitting up in their grave over this end run of authority, their spinning heads give out an incredulous cry of "Whaaaaaaa?"

"Remember, extremism in the nondefense of moderation is not a virtue." -- Peter Neumann, about usenet