Toner Remanufacturing Industry, a Pro-Consumer Choice BusinessAugust 27, 2009 5 Comments
It’s true. The toner remanufacturing industry is a lucrative business. But more than that, it is a business that affords consumers more informed choices with regards to the use of their printers and other office machines.
Printer manufacturers sell affordable printer units but cash in on pricey original inks. Understandably, they would want consumers to patronize the original ink that they offer. This is when the toner remanufacturing industry gets in their way.
From frightening consumers with void warranties, commissioned surveys, proprietary chips & softwares and even lawsuits, manufacturers have found ways to keep toner remanufacturing off the printing supplies market.
Lexmark International came up with a Prebate program, offering discounted toner cartridges to customers who agree to use the cartridge once and then return the used cartridge to Lexmark. [Although Lexmark also offered regular priced cartridges], this is a clear means of discouraging competition and attempting to monopolize products.
In 2002, Static Control Components, Inc. (SCC) found a way for Lexmark printers to accept third-party ink that used to worked only with Lexmark’s original ink, aided by a propriety chip and software. Lexmark sued SCC. Thus, the landmark legal case between a toner remanufacturer and a printer manufacturer began.
Lexmark initially won in the district court which ruled that SCC violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act . SCC appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which overturned the district court’s decision.
Judge Gilbert S. Merritt of the Court of Appeals, in his concurring legal opinion, aptly wrote “We should make clear that in the future, companies like Lexmark cannot use the DMCA in conjunction with copyright law to create monopolies of manufacturer goods for themselves“.
Most recently in March, the Eastern District Court of Kentucky granted SCC’s motion to reconsider the interlocutory order and found that Lexmark’s Prebate terms are not enforceable under patent law.
The two rulings in favor of SCC are not just key victories for the toner remanufacturing industry over a printer manufacturer. More importantly, it’s a victory for fair competition, pro-environment and pro-consumer choice.