Recently I was reading an article on C|Net news concerning a company that is developing a cryptographic chip to lock out companies from creating “compatible” ink cartridges for inkjet printers. The idea is that by encrypting the controller chip on the inkjet cartridge no one can copy the cartridge. Even if a company could decrypt the chips, doing so would be illegal under current laws in the US making the compatible cartridges illegal to sell and illegal to own.
One of the major printer companies, HP commented to C|Net on this and said the following: “There are other folks who want to avoid the (proper) process altogether and design a cartridge to work with an HP printer.” HP considers that buying any printer cartridge that is not manufactured by HP is “illegal competition”.
Now what does the US legal system think about this? Well a few years back Lexmark sued Static Control who created compatible printer chips for non-OEM print cartridges. Ultimately Lexmark lost the court battel even after attempting to appeal the case. Now if Lexmark introduces encryption into the mix this will be a whole other matter.
Historically the Supreme Court has frowned upon suppliers marking up and selling consumable products, however they tend to take a strong enforcement stance when it comes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which “criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, even when there is no infringement of copyright.”