The Supremes help save money with printing

Office for Mere Mortals helps people around the world get more from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Delivered once a week. free.

The US Supreme Court (aka The Supreme’s) has sided with consumers in a case about refilling printing toner or ink cartridges. Alas, printer makers still have other ways to grab extra money from you.

Lexmark sued Impression Products who have been refilling ink/toner cartridges.

The case alleged that Lexmark’s patents on cartridge technology were being breached when being refilled and recycled.

Impression Products countered that any patents are ‘exhausted’ when the original cartridge is sold.

“The Supreme’s” found against Lexmark in a 7-1 ruling. The ruling is available online if you’re interested or having trouble sleeping.

The ruling means that companies can’t use patent law to control what consumers do with a product once it’s bought.

Chief Justice Roberts gives the example of car repairs. The whole used car business would grind to a halt if the car maker could legally prevent repairs or resale of cars using patent law.

Other legal options

Printer makers can and do use other laws to control, or try to control, what you do with printer consumables.

The terms of use / contract you agree to when purchasing usually forbids consumers from refilling/reusing a cartridge.

Most cartridges have ‘chips’ or Digital Rights Management (DRM) to stop or discourage use of third-party consumables in a printer.  Last year, HP got some bad ‘ink’ when a firmware update to their printers stopped non-HP cartridges from working.

Happily, it’s unlikely that a printer company would sue an individual or small company for recycling printer cartridges.  You can save money on consumables without fear of being dragged into court. has some tips on saving money on printer consumables.

Want More?

Office Watch has the latest news and tips about Microsoft Office. Independent since 1996. Delivered once a week.