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 user 2003-10-29 at 3:22:00 pm Views: 82
  • #8245

    Lexmark Two Counts Down Under DMCA RulingS

    The United States Copyright Office released a ruling yesterday favoring Static Control Components’ position that reverse-engineering of toner cartridges and chips is legal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The ruling stated that the three classes of exemptions from Section 1201(a) of the DMCA that were proposed earlier this year by Static Control Components are not necessary because the proposed exemptions are already covered by Section 1201(f). This ruling should effectively invalidate two of the three claims against Static in the lawsuit filed by Lexmark last year, industry insiders say.

    “The Register concludes that an existing exemption in Section 1201(f) addresses the concerns of remanufacturers, making an exemption under section 1201(a)(1)(D) unnecessary,” according to a statement issued by the Copyright Office. “The Register’s conclusion is that Static Control’s purpose of achieving interoperability of remanufactured printer cartridges with Lexmark’s Prebate and non-Prebate printers could have been lawfully achieved by taking advantage of the defense found in Section 1201(f), the reverse-engineering exemption.”

    “We are pleased that the United States Copyright Office agreed with our position that the Lexmark contentions on the DMCA were without merit,” said Ed Swartz, Static Control Components’ CEO. “We have spent a small fortune fighting a multinational company (and this makes) our expenditure of time, money and talent worthwhile. We feel that we have not only won another victory for Static Control, but also for the consuming public.”

    The DMCA is at the center of the lawsuit filed by Lexmark against Static Control on Dec. 30, 2002. In that case, Lexmark sued Static Control for one count of infringement under copyright law and two under the DMCA. Part of the allegation made by Lexmark in the lawsuit was that Static Control’s T520/620 chip technology violated the DMCA by providing access to a copyrighted work (in this case, the 520/620’s Toner Loading Programs and Printer Engine Programs, representing the two counts of alleged DMCA violations).

    Lexmark was granted a preliminary injunction in February to keep Static from selling the disputed T520/620 chips.

    According to William “Skip” London, general counsel for Static Control Components, the Copyright Office’s ruling makes a significant impact on Static’s fight with Lexmark. “The Copyright Office found that section 1201(f) of the DMCA allows aftermarket companies to develop software for the purpose of allowing the functional interoperability of remanufactured toner cartridges and printers,” said London.

    Static specifically sought to have three classes of work exempted from the DMCA. The first dealt specifically with our industry’s concerns, and the other two would have extended the same protection to similar classes of products. The main request was to exempt “Computer programs embedded in computer printers and toner cartridges and that control the interoperation and functions of the printer and toner cartridge.”

    In June, representatives of Static Control Components appeared before a five-member rulemaking panel of the Copyright Office in Washington, D.C., to argue for the exemption of toner cartridges from the DMCA; Lexmark representatives also spoke at the hearing.

    The comments, rebuttals and testimonies from the rulemaking proceedings formed the basis of evidence that the Register of Copyrights, along with the Assistant of Secretary for Communications and Information of the Department of Commerce, used to make their recommendation to the Librarian of Congress. The Librarian made its recommendation on Oct. 28, 2003.