Lexmark Int'l Inc. v Static Control Components, Inc.
387 F.3d 522 (6th Cir. 2005)

  • Lexmark made printers and ink. In order to sell more ink, they began making two types of ink cartridges. One (sold at a higher price), was refillable, and the other was not.
    • In order to ensure that people didn't refill the unrefillable ink cartridges, Lexmark added a computer chip to their cartridges that interacted with the printer and wouldn't allow refilled cartridges to be used. The data between the printer and the cartridge was encrypted.
  • SCC also made printer cartridges. They made a computer chip that broke Lexmark's encryption and allowed the printers to use refilled cartridges. Lexmark sued for copyright infringement.
    • Lexmark argued that their computer code was copyrighted, and that SCC had violated that copyright.
    • Lexmark also argued that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(2)), makes it illegal to manufacture or offer a device to aid circumvention of a copyright.
  • The Trial Court found for Lexmark and issued an injunction. SCC appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that SCC infringed Lexmark's copyright by copying the code on the chip.
    • The Court found that SCC violated 1201(a)(2)) by circumventing Lexmark's encryption.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.
    • The Appellate Court noted that Lexmark couldn't copyright an idea, only an expression.
    • The Court found that the Trial Court failed to consider whether there were other ways SCC could have used the idea of Lexmarks' code without using the expression. If there were no other way to express the idea, then SCC would be allowed to copy Lexmark's expression.
    • The Court found that the encrypted authorization code did not control access to the printer. The act of buying the ink gave the consumer access the printer. Therefore, SCC's computer chip did not circumvent anything and so was not a violation of 1201(a)(2)).
    • The Court emphasized that the DMCA must be interpreted consistently with the broader public purposes of the copyright statute, rather than as a grant of new powers to makers of technology products to impose additional restrictions not contemplated by copyright.