San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today asked a federal appeals court to rule that a company can examine a competitor's technology in order to manufacture printer toner cartridges compatible with Lexmark printers without facing a copyright lawsuit.

Printer maker Lexmark had sued, claiming that cartridge remanufacturer Static Control Components circumvented Lexmark's access control technologies and infringed its copyrights by "reverse engineering" its printer toner cartridges. Static Control produced replacement microchips that enabled resellers to refill toner cartridges and sell them more cheaply.

Lexmark cited provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the lawsuit. The district court ruled in Lexmark's favor, then Static Control appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

EFF today filed an amicus brief to the appeals court supporting Static Control.

"Whether you like or hate the controversial DMCA, Congress never intended the law to shield printer manufacturers from competition in toner cartridges," said EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. "The Lexmark lawsuit shows how far copyright law has strayed from its original foundations, that is, 'to promote progress of science and useful arts.'"

EFF's amicus brief continues the EFF tradition of defending the rights of technologists and innovators. The brief argues that manufacturers should not be able to use the law to thwart interoperability with their products, because reverse engineering is protected fair use of copyrighted programs.



Wendy Seltzer

  Staff Attorney

  Electronic Frontier Foundation

  +1 415 436-9333 x125 (office)

Cindy Cohn

  Legal Director

  Electronic Frontier Foundation

  +1 415 436-9333 x108 (office)