Supreme Court’s Decision About Printer Cartridges Could Have Big Consequences

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By RACHEL MARTIN – There’s a case before the U.S. Supreme Court right now that centers around a lowly office supply product – the printer cartridge. It could have wide-reaching implications though for a whole host of consumer goods from electronics to cars to medicines. Noel King from our Planet Money podcast has the story.

NOEL KING, BYLINE: A Lexmark laser printer costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $400. A Lexmark refill toner cartridge costs about $130. It’s not cheap. So there are businesses that have sprung up that take empty Lexmark printer cartridges, refill them and then resell them for a lot cheaper. Eric Smith owns one of those businesses – Impression Products. It’s a small company in West Virginia. Every year, he says, they refill and sell tens of thousands of Lexmark printer cartridges.

ERIC SMITH: I buy the empty toner cartridges by the truckload every day.

KING: A couple years back, Eric started getting cease and desist notices from Lexmark – stop reselling our cartridges.

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