Supreme Court Protects Consumer Rights in Impression Products v. Lexmark International

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Today, the United States Supreme Court announced that patent owners may not override consumer ownership rights by license agreements. The decision, in a case titled Impression Products v. Lexmark International, also holds that the doctrine of "patent exhaustion," which ensures that a patent owner may not sue an authorized purchaser of a patented product, applies to sales of patented products outside the United States.

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

“The Supreme Court's decision is a strong recognition that consumer rights have primary importance. Consumers purchase patented products every day, and companies who manufacture and sell these products have long sought to leverage patent law into a tool to control how consumers use and resell those products now owned by the consumer.

“Corporate restrictions on how products are used and resold are costly and onerous for consumers. The decision today largely puts a stop to that practice, at least with respect to patent law. Nevertheless, patent law is not the only tool that companies use to restrict how consumers use and resell their possessions -- copyright law, trademark law, clever contracts and end-user license agreements continue to burden consumers with restrictions that are often unbalanced and unfair. We will continue to oppose these breaches upon consumer ownership rights in these areas.“

You may view the decision here.

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