Press Release Patent Reform

Public Knowledge Urges Supreme Court to Protect Consumer Ownership Rights in Patent Case

April 21, 2016 , ,

Yesterday, Public Knowledge filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in the case Impression Products v. Lexmark International. The brief was joined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the R Street Institute.

The case relates to printer toner cartridges that are refilled and resold. Lexmark argues that the resale of printer cartridges violates its patent rights. Impression Products, who remanufactures cartridges, contends that its activities are legally permitted because Lexmark's patent rights were exhausted at the time of sale of the cartridges to consumers. The amicus brief filed supports Impression's view that consumer ownership rights should override Lexmark's patent interests.

The following may be attributed to Charles Duan, Director of the Patent Reform Project at Public Knowledge:

“As an organization promoting consumer rights within the patent system, Public Knowledge could not have a stronger interest in protecting individual rights of ownership in personal goods, in the face of patent owners who wish to strip consumers of their traditional abilities to use and resell their own possessions. Our amicus brief traces four centuries of law that have consistently sent a single message: consumers who buy goods own those goods fully, and sellers may not attempt to use clever legal devices to attach conditions and restraints on those goods after they are sold.

“In a world where embedded software appears in even our most basic possessions and appliances, from our cars to our refrigerators to our cat feeders, manufacturers of these devices have put on a sustained campaign to take away consumer rights to repair, resell, or improve upon personal property through complex EULAs attached to the software on those devices. These attempts to control the public through obscure intellectual property regimes are an affront to individual liberties and property ownership, and they are a drag on the free market economy in secondhand goods and repair services. We hope that the Supreme Court will recognize these important public concerns in this case.”

You may view our amicus brief here.