Score another one for the little guy – – in its David-Goliath legal battle with printer giant Lexmark International.
A federal judge in Kentucky earlier this week, now declaring a process by which Lexmark worked to block printer cartridge remanufacturers from reusing Lexmark cartridges. The judge said he changed the ruling following a Supreme Court case involving similar patent issues last year.
Static Control, the small firm that makes materials for ink cartridge remanufacture, has been fighting Lexmark for six years.
The Sanford firm had designed a chip to defeat a similar chip installed by Lexmark to guard against remanufacturer. The Lexmark chip was part of a “prebate” process that encouraged customers to buy Lexmark cartridges at a discount in exchange for a promise to return them to Lexmark, not to a remanufacturer.
Remanufacturers fill the cartridges with ink and toner and sell them at cheaper prices than Lexmark.
Static Control Chief Executive Officer Ed Swartz hailed the ruling.
“Lexmark first sued us six years ago. I told our industry then that that suit was just the first round in the fight,” he said. “Since then we have won every round. I am not going to let a large company use its economic might to keep us from doing what is right.”
Swatz and Static Control’s Skip London issued a statement about the ruling.
“Static Control has believed that Lexmark could not use their patents to prevent remanufacturing of prebate labeled toner cartridges since the beginning,” London said. “After twelve years of debates, and six years of lawsuits, it is good to see that the Judge in Kentucky, as well as the United States Supreme Court agrees with our position.”
Static Control says it is the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of parts and supplies supporting the laser toner and ink jet remanufacturing industries.
Lexmark said it would continue to fight the case. The judge ruled that other issues remain to be considered.
"We want to stress that the March 31 ruling does not invalidate our successful Lexmark Return Program, which we will continue," Lexmark spokesman Jerry Grasso told the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper. "Lexmark is assessing its next possible steps, which may include an appeal of this recent decision."