Executive Briefings

Supreme Court Rules Patent Laws Can't Be Used to Prevent Reselling

The Supreme Court on Tuesday placed sharp limits on how much control patent holders have over how their products are used after they are sold.

The case concerned Lexmark International, which makes toner cartridges for use in its printers. The court ruled that the company could not use patent law to stop companies from refilling and selling the cartridges.

Mark Lemley, director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology, said that anyone who refurbished, repaired or resold used products would now be protected from patent infringement claims. The ruling will also prevent manufacturers from forcing consumers to buy supplies only from the original source.

“It’s good for consumers,” Lemley said. “It’s going to reduce consumer prices.”

Lexmark sold the cartridges on the condition that they not be reused after the ink ran out. Impression Products, a small company in Charleston, W.Va., nonetheless bought Lexmark cartridges in the United States and abroad, refurbished and refilled them, and sold them more cheaply than Lexmark does.

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The case concerned Lexmark International, which makes toner cartridges for use in its printers. The court ruled that the company could not use patent law to stop companies from refilling and selling the cartridges.

Mark Lemley, director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology, said that anyone who refurbished, repaired or resold used products would now be protected from patent infringement claims. The ruling will also prevent manufacturers from forcing consumers to buy supplies only from the original source.

“It’s good for consumers,” Lemley said. “It’s going to reduce consumer prices.”

Lexmark sold the cartridges on the condition that they not be reused after the ink ran out. Impression Products, a small company in Charleston, W.Va., nonetheless bought Lexmark cartridges in the United States and abroad, refurbished and refilled them, and sold them more cheaply than Lexmark does.

Read Full Article