Lexmark is facing a potential damages payout of over $100 million if an anti-trust suit filed this past Friday by Static Control Components (SCC) goes against it.
The suit claims Lexmark is guilty of restricting commerce, and engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices. In essence, alleges SCC, "Lexmark has unlawfully attempted to monopolise and has monopolised that market for remanufactured cartridges that go into their printers".
The filing follows Lexmark's successful - so far - action against SCC, using the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Lexmark alleges SCC's Smartek chips, which allow companies other than Lexmark to refill and reuse Lexmark toner cartridges, violate Lexmark copyrights.
Lexmark claims that it isn't trying to block the remanufacture of its toner cartridges but wants to ensure the quality of remanufactured cartridges. However, SCC's chips allow the remanufacture of Lexmark cartridges without Lexmark involvement - either as a supplier of cartridges to remanufacturers or as a remanufacturer in its own right. It's hard not to conclude that the printer giant has other, more commercial motives.
That, at least, is SCC's argument and the basis for its anti-trust claim.
alongside its legal action, SCC is also seeking exemption of its products and others like them from the DMCA. It argues that the technology circumvented by its chips simply seek to maintain the toner cartridge manufacturer's hold over its customers, not to guarantee copyright. As such, says SCC, such technology is outside the scope of the DMCA and thus not under its protection.
Last month it was granted leave by the US Copyright Office to petition the public for comments on its proposal. ®