The U.S. Copyright Office has ruled that Lexmark, the second largest printer company in the U.S., cannot invoke the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in its lawsuit against Static Control Components (SCC). The opinion is not binding on the Federal Court that is reviewing the case.
SCC, a small North Carolina firm, sells a chip that allows Lexmark printer owners to use third-party, recycled toner cartridges. The firm contends that Lexmark is trying to use copyright and the DCMA to eliminate competition from the toner cartridge market. The company insists it engaged in “legitimate” reverse engineering, a claim substantiated by the U.S. Copyright decision.
Lexmark says the Copyright office decision is irrelevant. It’s not the reverse engineering that they are complaining about, it’s the “theft” of intellectual property, the software that tells the cartridge that it is empty and must be replaced. This saga began in December 2002, when Lexmark filed suit in federal court.