Many New Jersey residents and companies use cartridges for their printers, and some later resell them. The Supreme Court of the United States is deciding a case that may impact what consumers are allowed to do with their cartridges after they have purchased them.
The lawsuit was filed by Lexmark International Inc. against Impression Products Inc. Lexmark sued because it claimed that the consumers who purchased its cartridges were forbidden from reselling the cartridges to other companies by Lexmark’s contracts. Impression Products Inc. sold refilled Lexmark cartridges. A federal appeals court held that Impression Products infringed on Lexmark’s patents by reselling the cartridges, and Impression appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s decision will determine when a patent holder’s rights are exhausted. Under the first-sale doctrine, a patent holder loses its rights following the first sale of a patented product. Lexmark argued that it is allowed to exclude the ability to resell its products in its contracts, and it points to a specific section of the U.S. Patent Act. During questioning, Justice Breyer asked Lexmark if it would hypothetically be able to sue customers who resold its cartridges if the court was to decide in the company’s favor. The court heard arguments in the case on March 21, and it is unclear when its ruling will be issued.
When individuals or businesses hold patents and believe that others have infringed on them, they might want to consult with intellectual property attorneys who have experience with patent law and litigation. Attorneys may analyze the facts in order to assess whether or not an infringement is likely to have occurred. If a company or individual has infringed on a client’s patents, an attorney may try to negotiate a settlement. If a settlement is unreachable, the lawyer may file a lawsuit to seek an injunction and ensuing damages.