September 3, 2003

Court Rejects DMCA Claim Against Garage Door Manufacturer

On August 29, 2003 US District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer denied
part of a motion for summary judgment against Skylink Technologies for
making compatible garage door openers, allegedly in violation of the US
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Chamberlain Group sued its competitor in January 2003 for making a
garage door opener that was compatible with its own under the DMCA's ban
on trafficking in circumvention devices. Chamberlain Group claims that
Skylink's garage door opener circumvents access controls to a computer
program in its garage door opener. Skylink claims that because a person
owns the garage and the door opener, he or she has lawful authorization
to access the computer program and open the garage door with any device
he or she chooses.

Judge Pallmeyer disagreed with Chamberlain Group's argument that a
garage owner violates the DMCA if he or she loses the transmitter and
operates the garage door opener by circumventing the computer program in
it. "The homeowner has a legitimate expectation that he or she will be
able to access the garage even if his transmitter is misplaced or
malfunctions," stated the Court.

"The Court recognized the common sense argument that the DMCA should not
be used to prevent a person from using his or her own property in lawful
ways or to force consumers to purchase costly replacement parts," said
Robin Gross, Executive Director of IP Justice, a civil liberties
organization that promotes balanced intellectual property laws.

The Court also expressed appreciation for amicus curie briefs filed by
the Consumers Union and the Communications Industry Association (CCIA)
that argued Chamberlain's interpretation of the DMCA as prohibiting
after-market replacement transmitters would have the effect of stifling
innovation and increasing consumer prices. The Court said, "for reasons
identified by Skylink or by amici, Skylink itself may be entitled to
summary judgment on Count III."

The August 29 ruling only addressed one of several issues presented by
Chamberlain's motion for summary judgment. Skylink filed its own motion
for summary judgment, which is also pending before the Court in Chicago.

August 29 Order Denying Summary Judgment Against Skylink:
http://www.ipjustice.org/skylink/082903_ORDER.pdf

Chamberlain Group v. Skylink Technologies Case Archive:
http://www.ipjustice.org/skylink.shtml

Consumers Union Amicus Curie Brief:
http://www.ipjustice.org/skylink/skylink_consumer_union_amicus.pdf

Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) Amicus Curie Brief:
http://www.ipjustice.org/skylink/skylink_ccai_amicus.doc

IP Justice is an international civil liberties organization that
promotes balanced intellectual property law. IP Justice defends
individual rights to use digital media worldwide and is a registered
California non-profit organization. IP Justice was founded in 2002 by
Robin D. Gross, who serves as its Executive Director. To learn more
about IP Justice, visit the website at http://www.ipjustice.org
http://www.ipjustice.org.

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