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 user 2005-09-09 at 10:26:00 am Views: 88
  • #12711

    Inkjet Cartridge Refills Violate U.S. Law?

    In a ruling with wide
    implications, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court last week ruled that refilling
    a “single use only” Lexmark printer cartridge violates U.S. contract
    and patent law.
    Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that
    opening an inkjet cartridge labelled “single use only” creates an
    enforceable contract between the customer and the cartridge
    manufacturer, and that refilling the cartridge could constitute a
    violation of contract and patent law.

    The decision comes in a case between printer and cartridge manufacturer
    Lexmark and the Arizona Cartridge Remanufacturers Association (ACRA),
    and appears to be an extension of the so-called “shrinkwrap license”
    which appeared on software products to patented goods available for
    sale. By opening the product, customers are agreeing to the single-use
    terms specified by the manufacturer. If they then turn that product
    over to another party-such as a cartridge remanufacturer-they are
    violating that agreement and would be subject to action under contract
    and patent law. Moreover, companies which offer to remanufacture or
    enable customers to re-use such products in ways prohibited by the
    customer agreement could be subject to legal action for inducing
    customers to violate patent and contract law.

    Lexmark previously tried to shut down inkjet cartridge remanufacturers
    using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA); the U.S. Sixth
    Circuit court did not side with Lexmark, specifically finding the DMCA
    could not be used to create monopolies on manufactured goods.

    The Ninth Circuit’s ruling could conceivably open the door to many
    different types of on-box contracts consumers tacitly accept by opening
    the package of a patented product. Agreements could forbid or restrict
    or forbid repair, alteration, resale, or certain applications of the
    products. For instance, a contact could specify that a product could
    only be serviced by the manufacturer, could not be sold by the
    customer, or could not be modified by the customer or a third party.

    If the ruling stands, the implications could be widespread.
    Manufacturers could seek to restrict what customers can do with
    patented products, both to make certain types of activities illegal
    (e.g., developing and selling modifications to video game systems, for
    instance) or lock in revenue streams by preventing third parties from
    refurbishing, repairing, or upgrading products (e.g., printer
    cartridges, adding storage capacity, selling systems on eBay, etc.