Recycling company riding recognition after Supreme Court victory

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia company that was a focal point of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling is being recognized within its industry.

Impression Products of Charleston, which recycles printer cartridges originally made by Lexmark, was on the winning side of a unanimous Supreme Court decision in May. The case received coverage from Fortune to The New York Times. The ruling protects those who refurbish, repair or resell used products from copyright claims. It also reassures consumers of pricing options in the marketplace.

Recycling Times, which represents companies that reuse products that were manufactured earlier, presented an annual award Thursday to Impression Products at its office just off the Mink Shoals exit of Interstate 79.

Eric Smith

Recycling Times also made Impression Products the cover subject of its most recent trade magazine.

Steve Weedon, a contributing editor of Recycling Times’ trade magazine and CEO of Discover Imaging Products, presented the award to Eric Smith, owner of Impression Products.

“Eric decided not to settle, and that’s why I wanted to tell his story,” Weedon said. “People should know this story.

“Actually, the result is not so much for Eric. He will gain very little out of the result other than being allowed to continue. But there are many other companies within the industry, within the United States, giving local jobs that will be able to keep their local jobs because of these new interpretations of patent law.”

Lexmark sued 50 companies that were using empty cartridges imported from Canada. All settled except for Impression Products.

“And what they were saying is that re-manufacturing is bad — taking something that is a waste product that is empty and spent and re-manufacturing using high quality parts and some technology, which the industry provides, is not right. And Eric said ‘That cannot be. We’ve been doing this for 25 years.'”

Smith’s father, Walter, founded the company in 1978. Now Eric Smith and his family run the business with the help of 25 employees.

Accepting the award Thursday and speaking to his employees, Smith said he’s proud that the Supreme Court victory will allow others in the industry to continue re-using products. He said that will benefit consumers, too.

“Because of Impression Products everybody now has a choice when they go into any supermarket, drug store, any national chain — you have the right now to buy any product you want to buy. Once you buy it, it’s yours. The entity over that product doesn’t control you. They don’t control the product. Once you spend your money that product is yours now. And that’s because we stood up and fought.”

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