FC: Polk Wagner: Garage door opener DMCA case is hardly "lunacy"

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Wed Jan 15 2003 - 21:04:24 PST

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    Polk teaches intellectual property law at the University of Pennsylvania's 
    law school. Previous Politech message:
    Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 23:57:42 -0500
    Subject: Re: FC: DMCA vs. The Garage Door Opener
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    From: "R. Polk Wagner" <polkat_private>
    To: declanat_private
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    I don't see the lunacy.
    The case features patent and various trademark-type claims as well. The
    DMCA provides one additional (albeit significant) argument - with the
    allegation being that Skylink is building devices that break whatever
    protection is wrapped around the code-rolling software.  It would seem
    to have the basic features of what Congress was intending with the
    DMCA: to make technological protections 'stick'.
    Further, trying to control a complementary market to one's good (here,
    replacement door-opener remotes) is a very standard business tactic.
    And one that is implemented via a number of mechanisms: contracts,
    technology, and (gasp) intellectual property.  The discipline here is
    provided by the market - if Chamberlain uses its control of the
    replacement remote market in a way that diminishes the utility (or
    raises the overall cost) of their goods, then they'll suffer the
    consequences.  (Assuming, of course, that the market for garage-door
    opening systems is competitive, which seems a safe assumption.)
    In some cases, it can be more efficient to allow the creator of the
    original good to control the complementary market; it may allow for
    better pricing mechanisms, or some quality benefits.  In other cases,
    it's not so good.  But in either event, given reasonable competition in
    the market for the original goods, this will get sorted out -- almost
    certainly in the consumer's favor.  Here, Chamberlain argues that the
    Skylink remotes 'break' the security features of the garage door system.
    There are a number of problems with the DMCA.  But I'm not sure this is
    one of them, even if one doubts (as I do) whether this move is smart
    for Chamberlain's business.
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