Chips let non-Lexmark cartridges work in its printers

Chips let non-Lexmark cartridges work in its printers

Static Control Components (SCC) has announced it has begun selling three new chips that allow third-party printer cartridges to work in printers from Lexmark International, the latest salvo in a ongoing dispute between SCC and Lexmark.

Lexmark printer cartridges for the T520, T620 and T630 laser printer families use chips to verify that the cartridge is one manufactured by Lexmark, and cartridges from third-party vendors without those chips will not work in Lexmark printers.

Last year, Lexmark won an injunction in a Kentucky court prohibiting SCC from distributing its Smartek chips that replicate the signals sent from Lexmark's chips in the T520 and T620 printers. After reviewing the text of that decision, SCC has come back with three new re-engineered replacement chips that provide additional benefits such as ink management and maintenance features.

The new chips would allow third-party vendors to once again sell toner cartridges that workrf with the T520 and T620 printers, and to add cartridges for the T630 printers to their product lines, SCC said.

SCC has been selling the chips for a week, and has yet to hear anything from Lexmark about the new chips, SCC chief executive officer, Ed Swartz, said.

The company would file for copyrights for the new chips with the US Copyright Office, Swartz said.

A Lexmark spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Lexmark had sued SCC in 2002 under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), claiming that SCC's chips violate a section of that act prohibiting duplication of digital technology that protects copyright material.

The Lexmark cartridges used copyright software to produce the data allowing Lexmark printers to only accept Lexmark cartridges, and SCC duplicated that software in order to produce those chips, according to the initial ruling in the case handed down last year.

The US Copyright Office later ruled that the DMCA does not prohibit reverse engineering if the intent is to make the duplicated product work with a separate computer program.

SCC had requested a ruling on possible exemptions to the DMCA that would allow them to produce their chips, and the Copyright Office dismissed those requests after ruling the DMCA had always protected SCC's type of reverse engineering.

The real money in the printer market isn't in the printer itself, but rather in the consumables market for products such as ink cartridges that provide a steadier cash flow.

The printer manufacturers claim that their cartridges are far superior in quality to those remanufactured or refurbished by third-party vendors, but the third-party cartridges usually sell for far less than the ones made by the original manufacturers.

Other printer companies such as HP, Dell, and Epson do everything they can to encourage users to buy original factory cartridges, but Lexmark is the only major printer vendor so far to include a chip in its printers and cartridges that ensures only Lexmark cartridges will work with Lexmark printers.

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