ACRA, an association of cartridge remanufacturers, sued Lexmark to block this anti-consumer use of patent law. EFF filed an amicus brief on their behalf before the Ninth Circuit. Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit this week ruled in favor of Lexmark, agreeing that the “single use only” restriction
contained in the “box-wrap license” on the package could create an enforceable contract between Lexmark and its customers, and that a violation of the contract could be a patent infringement.
The consequences for consumers, innovators, and competition are potentially dire. Will patent owners exploit this decision as an opportunity to impose over-reaching restrictions on formerly permitted
post-sale uses, repairs, modifications, and resale? Will consumers soon confront “single use only, not for resale” notices on more and more products? Will innovators stumble over labels announcing “modifications prohibited”?
Only time will tell.
(Via Privacy Digest.)
What will happen is easy to assess. People will ignore the restriction. How can this even be enforced? The printer cartridge division of the FBI?
Or, people will steer away from Lexmark printers (I will never buy one, for example).
Or, someone will come along with a printer that doesn’t have this restriction and people will buy it instead.
Or, people who don’t take the refill cost into account when they buy a printer will get burned. The next time they need to buy a printer, they’ll find another brand.
It’s a parasitic business model. Like a parasite that eventually kills its host and needs to find another host to survive, Lexmark will survive by preying on new customers who don’t check on the cost of refill cartridges and take it into account when they buy a printer. They damn sure will the next time they buy a printer, though.