If a patent holder is allowed to control what happens to their patented products after the first sale, where would it end? Would they be able to take a cut from thrift shops? Garage sales?
Lexmark International, a technology company that makes printers and ink cartridges for those printers, has been selling its ink cartridges on the condition that they could not be refilled and resold after the initial sale. Despite that contingency, Impression Products, a small company based in West Virginia, was buying Lexmark’s ink cartridges (in the U.S. as well as abroad), refilling and refurbishing them, and reselling them at a reduced price.
Lexmark responded by suing Impression Products, claiming the company’s refusal to abide by the limitations Lexmark provided constituted trademark infringement. The case went before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which is located in Washington. That court supported both of Lexmark’s claims concerning the resale of patented items that were initially purchased both in America, as well as those bought in other countries.
The appeals court agreed that, in most cases, anyone who bought a patented product was free to use it however they saw fit once they had paid for it, but that the conditions Lexmark had placed upon the sale of its ink cartridges was valid. Continue reading ›