February 27, 2003 5:04 PM PST

Lexmark wins injunction in DMCA case

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Printer maker Lexmark International won a preliminary injunction Thursday in efforts to prevent a company from selling computer chips that allow printers to use unauthorized recycled toner cartridges.

Judge Karl Forester of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky issued the pretrial injunction against Static Control Components, a small Sanford, N.C.-based company that sells printer parts and other business supplies.

The order prohibits the company from selling its Smartek chip. When installed in compatible Lexmark printers, the chips allow the printers to use cheaper recycled toner cartridges that would otherwise be rejected by the printer's sensors.

Lexmark filed the suit late last year, alleging the Smartek chip violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which prohibits the dismantling of devices intended to protect intellectual property rights.

Printer makers have employed a variety of technological means in recent years to undercut the market for recycled toner and ink cartridges, which typically sell for much less than original items. Most printer makers sell their printers at or near cost, making their profit from sales of supplies.

Lexmark is the No. 2 seller of printers in the United States, behind Hewlett-Packard, and manufactures printers under the Dell Computer brand.

Anti-circumvention language in the DMCA has been a foundation for a number of recent copyright actions, including the Justice Department's crackdown earlier this week on a site distributing "mod chips" for Microsoft's Xbox video game console.


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