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Would You Buy a Chevy if You Had to Buy GM Gas?

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Coot, Jan 20, 2003.

  1. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    I don't think we've discussed this one yet. It seems that Lexmark is suing a company called Static Control Components because they sell aftermarket toner cartridges for the Lexmark printer.

    Static Control is buying a chip from Smartek that allows them to circumvent the technology that Lexmark incorporates so the copiers they sell to the individual consumer will only accept Lexmark manufactured cartridges.
    Hence the title, although I know many of us wouldn't be caught dead driving a GM product ;)

    It would seem that the DMCA is living up to all of its expectations.
  2. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

    Actually, I don't think Lexmark is abusing the DMCA at all.

    If Lexmark takes the time and money to design technology to ensure their printers only use their ink cartridges, which is where the money really is in the printer business, and some company comes and then some company comes and basically comes out with a 'mod chip' to trick the printer into thinking the cartridge is genuine Lexmark product, I think they've got a real case.

    Can't a company copyright a specific technology? I'll assume Lexmark copyrighted the technology that their printers use. I'll then have to assume that the designers of the mod chips infringed on that copy right in order to make the mod chip work.

    No company likes their products to be modded. Xbox will ban a user for LIFE from the Xbox live online community if they detect a mod chip on the system. And mod chips are primarily used to play imported games (which are always muuuch better than what we have available) and the occasional copied game :angel: Yet if MS detects that your Xbox has a mod chip, they'll ban your xbox for life. If you ever want to play online again, you have to go and buy another xbox.

    I don't think Lexmark is abusing the DMCA, they're just protecting their product's integrity.
  3. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Okay then, let's take a look from the perspective of the thread title. Let's say, GM bought out Sunoco, and then embedded a chip in the neck of the gas tank such that it only recognized Sunoco gas pump nozzles and shut down delivery of any non Sunoco gas pumps or shutdown the ability of the gas tank to receive it...does the same argument follow? Most of us will spend much more on gas than we do on our vehicle...same rules apply?
  4. mikepd

    mikepd Veteran Member

    BS to the max. Lexmark did no innovative engineering method of delivering inkjet toner to paper. What they did was to figure out a way to control how to prevent any use of other than their own cartridges from being used in their printers. I've seen this done in mid-range computer systems back in the '70s. Data General had a system that would fry competitors memory boards if they were used. Nice touch.

    Lexmark has their panties in a bunch because Static Control reversed engineered their design and figured out how to make a chip to defeat it. Now I am not a lawyer but reverse engineering as long as it is done in a 'clean' environment without using trade secrets is perfectly legal, AFAIK. An example would be the aftermarket chips for cars that can be used to get better performance than the one provided by the car maker.

    Lexmark deserves to get smacked on the side of the head on this one. The DMCA is a minefield just waiting to go off. It is a classic piece of some really bad legislation.

    The problem with politicians is that they pass laws on technology that they have little direct working knowledge of. They rely on staff and, of course, lobbyists. Always a wonderful combination.
  5. mikeky

    mikeky Member

    It appears that, at least temporarily, <a href="http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1103-980157.html">score one</a> for Lexmark. The way I look at it, if the cartridge technology isn't patented, then it's fair to reverse engineer and reproduce it. I'm guessing this type of enforcement was not what the DMCA was supposed to address.
  6. Techie2000

    Techie2000 The crowd would sing:

    I think the first problem is with the actual prices of inkjet printers. They are almost all sold at a loss with the intention of the company making up that loss via the ink cartridges which are sold at a high price. If people are buying Lexmark printers and not lexmark cartridges then Lexmark is losing money. Lexmark could respond by either creating a method to prevent people from using non-Lexmark cartridges or they could sell the printers at a higher price. Well obviously they can't hike up the price of printers because then people will just go to the competition. So their last option is to sue the companies that make the second rate cartridges.

    I personally stay away from cartridges that aren't from my printer manufacturer and I also stay away from refill kits. They can really screw up your printer which we learned first hand.

    As far as the DMCA goes, I think that it is an awful piece of legislation and lexmark shouldn't have a right to sue these people as long as it was reverse engineered in a clean environment...
  7. jfcjrus

    jfcjrus Veteran Member

    Well, sir, I think you pretty well summarized the situation.
    Marketting departments say to:
    'Darn near give the printers away, we'll get our profits on the ink cartridges to make them work'.
    I wonder if perhaps, today, this is bad advice?

    Lexmark printers will only work with Lexmark ink cartridges? I didn't know that. Now that I know that, it'll be a cold day in hell before I buy a Lexmark printer.

    I submit that:
    This marketting scheme (of most of the printer manufacturers) was good, while it lasted.
    But, consumers are getting a bit more sophisticated (they're beginning to pay attention to where their hard earned dollars are going).

    So, Lexmark is telling us consumers that we can't avail ourselves of saving some money by buying a 'generic' cartridge, at our own risk?

    They're such a monopoly that they think that they can get away with this?
    They're digging their own grave.

    Rather than making a great product that will speak for itself, it sounds like they're trying to sucker the customer into an arangement the customer wasn't even aware of.

    To me, it doesn't matter whether they win the court case or not; they've lost my business.

  8. mikepd

    mikepd Veteran Member

    Printers are such a low cost upfront item, I'm afraid Lexmark is not the only culprit here. Almost every printer manufacturer, AFAIK, wants you to use their cartridge exclusively. That's where the money is, in the consumables and service contracts.

    I have a Lexmark X83 All in One simply because it was bundled with my wife's Dell and she already had a Canon printer. I wanted to retire my HP 4L laserjet and get a color inkjet so this was serendipity. If I was to buy a new unit, I would choose based on the replacement cartridge cost, after first deciding on the base printer requirement. The All in One component has come in handy and we will probably get a similar type unit.

    Quality has gone down it seems. My HP 4L was a solid performer with a good 'feel' to it. Now the units are made of a much cheaper plastic and come apart much to easily. I took HP servicing courses when I worked for CompUSA and what is being made today is just planned obsolesce. That is a story for yet another thread.
  9. yazdzik

    yazdzik Veteran Member

    No one needs me to re-iterate my opinion of the DMCA, or monopolistic practices in general.
    There was never a basis in law for this kind of suit, to wit, GM cars/gm gas, but the DMCA provided it.
    People who allowed their dislike of sex to influence their voting in 2000 now have the microsoft, lexmark, etc, they deserve.
    Sometimes, the courts cannot rescue the stupid from themselves, and I fear, that the few parts of the DMCA that seriously violate the first amendment will be struck down, but those that simply repeal, de facto, the Sherman laws, since the anti-trust laws have no need to exist inconstitution, will stand.
    Thus, in essence, at least for Intellectual Property and Tech Protection laws, the DMCA has created the abolition of the anti-trust environment of the last hundred years, under the pretext of economic efficiencies of increased productivity being more trenchant than business abuses of decreased competition are important.
    There are arguments on either side, of course, but, I am writing to Lexmark, and chucking my printer.....


    For fear of losing our nice new SUV, we are losing the ethical underpinnings of business.

    Greenspan, apologist for the value of money being the meaning of life, seems to have been everybody's hero, since we never really hit bottom, and we can all have a decent rate on a re-fi.

    Personally, he and his, "Isn't productivity wonderful?" school of monetaristic hegemony, instead of saying that no decent person would allow a microsoft, irrespective of economic benefit, puts him, in my book, a little below Mussolini.

    Apparently, "It's the economy" is the only morality we know.

    I wonder, what kind of petrol I'll be allowed to put in my Mustang, if Bill Gates decides that only microsoft ice cream cones can be eaten on the GM turnpike to the beach?

    Or will they just shoot me?

    Looks like a small issue on the surface, but, in reality, an epochal change -

    "man the measure of all things" has become "money the measure of all men."

    Thanks, Bill and Al....

    Both sets of of Bills and Als....
  10. Stiofan

    Stiofan Master Po

    Let's see, I spend my money and buy a product, but am not allowed to purchase replacement parts on the open market??? Better not add anything not ordered from Dell to the computer you bought from them last year.

    I didn't like the shaft on my golf club so I changed it - I guess the company making the replacement broke the law. Perhaps I did too. It was after all, a conspiracy, we were both involved.

    We all buy the same tires that originally came on our autos, don't we?

    Anyone ever buy an aftermarket battery for their cell phone? Whoops, you just screwed up. Better not tell Motorola or Nokia.

    Give me a break.
  11. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

    If GM lowered the price of their cars to the point you could pick up a nice car for around 5 grand, because the profit is to be made from the sale of gasoline, then yes the same arguement applies.
  12. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    I think you'd have half an argument there, except for the fact that you rely on other statements that printer manufacturer's are in fact selling printers at or below cost. I'm not buying it. I'm looking real close at a Lexmark Z42 sitting over one of our computers. This printer sold for around $249 when it was new. Through investment moldings, the reuse of parts common to earlier versions and throwing in standard electronics, I can't see more than a $40 or $50 cost of production on one of these. I'm pretty certain that the argument that printer manufacturers are selling at or below cost is just bogus.

    They're making a nice profit from the printer and tying consumers into their own toner or ink cartridges.
  13. mikepd

    mikepd Veteran Member

    I said low cost (relative to what printers were when they first came out) not at cost and certainly not below cost. Sorry if there was a misinterpretation. The Lexmark X83 is now selling for $170 according to their web site with its replacement, the X85 going for $180. The X85 has twice the resolution for $10 more.

    I agree with Coot that the manufacturers are greedy with the toner cartridge issue but that has always been the case in any field.

    X-ray equipment is the same way. Computerized scanners cost big bucks but the real money is in the service contracts which when I was a tech ran 7% of the purchase price. On a $1.2 million dollar scanner that's a nice piece of change.

    How many cartridges do you buy in a year? How many special photo cartridges do you get? It all adds up.
  14. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    Misu, just because GM(or Lexmark or any other company) can come up with a business model such as the one you described, doesn't mean that they automatically get the right to stop competitors who may make that model difficult or impossible for them to pull off.

    I don't know about you all, but I would much, MUCH rather spend more money on a printer, preferably one that is more durable than the pieces of crappola that grace the store shelves today, in exchange for more reasonably priced toner/ink cartridges. I'm sorry, but $30 per cartridge that I pay now for my HP printer is ABSURD. The amount of technology and materials in a cartridge like that isn't even worth half that price, in my opinion.

    Allowing competitors to produce replacement parts for printers(or cars, etc.) will mean lower overall prices for consumers. If that means that Lexmark and the others must change their business models(i.e.: pricier printers), then so be it. I cringe every time I dish out $30+ for a black ink cartridge because I just know that I'm getting screwed.

    I think Lexmark should concentrate more on designing quality printers and less on overpriced ink cartridges. I would gladly spend $300 or more on a low end printer if I knew replacement cartridges would cost $10 or less. I'm sure they could make a profit on the cartridges even at that price.
  15. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    I would think this should be an issue of consumer protection. The government stopped car manufacturers from requiring you have your service done at their loctions to keep your warranty. My understanding was the same thing has happened with printers at least as far as your warranty goes.

    Maybe we should require a huge statement on the box that says "This printer requires you purchase Lexmark ink cartridges with a suggested retail price of $34.95."
  16. Techie2000

    Techie2000 The crowd would sing:

    Actually, you can't anymore. Dell now uses a proprietary power connector on the inside of its computer case, so unless you can find adaptors, dude, your stuck with dell everything...
  17. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    1 wire cutter/stripper - $5

    1 soldering iron w/ soldering supplies - $10

    Outsmarting idiotic manufacturers like Dell - priceless!
  18. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    If I may be so bold as to restate Martin's fine post....I believe his reference to the Sherman anti-trust laws may have gone missed by some.

    The Sherman Act prohibits something called "tie-ins" whereby a manufacturer says "You can buy product X only if you also agree to buy product Y". Product X is, of course, highly desirable, where product Y is not.

    So the Sherman Act has prevented this sort of behavior for many decades. It's directly aimed at preventing monopolies.

    Now along comes this Lexmark case which appears to be poised to toss Sherman out on its ear. Lexmark seems to have gained, for now, the legal right to say to consumers "You can buy our printers, but only if you buy our ink cartridges, as well." This is a clear violation of the Sherman Act.

    If only the DMCA had been around during Microsoft's anti-trust case, Bill Gates could well have argued "You can buy our OS, but only if you buy our browser, as well."
  19. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

    Well, there are other printers out there that don't require you to purchase a $40 ink catridge - they now sell printers who's catridges are individual colors. Some have 3 colors and 1 black, others have 4 colors and 1 black, and others have 5 colors and 1 black. I'm shopping around for a printer (photo printer) and I came across a few Epson models that use this new catridge technology - and each catridge is about 9 dollars. Of course, the printers are between 200 and 300 bucks. But that's the exchange, it would seem.

    Coot, you're right, I am relying on the arguement that printers are sold extremely cheap and at a loss. I don't know if this is true. But I do know that when I first purchased by HP deskjet, I paid about 450 for it. I can go to wal-mart right now and pick up a printer with better resolution, less noise, smaller size, than my HP, for around 50 bucks. That's 400 dollars difference, and considering the years that have passed between the purchase of my HP and going out and getting one today, 400 dollars today is less than what it was when I bought my HP. And catridges for my HP have always been around 40 bucks. Any catridge is around that price. The cheaper ones are still like 25 bucks.

    Also, I assumed that Lexmark copywrote the technology they use to ensure their printers only use lexmark catridges. If reverse engineering doesn't infringe on copyrights, then their use of the DMCA is wrong. But I suspect otherwise.
  20. Stiofan

    Stiofan Master Po

    Hummm, I wonder how I got that memory stick and NIC to work in the Dell I bought last summer??? I don't care about a company designing a product to use only their replacement parts. I don't think it's right they go to court over the issue, however. The auto makers tried on replacement crash parts, and lost, I see no difference here.

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