Supreme Court Ruling Brings Good News to Remanufacturers

The US Supreme Court has ruled copyrighted products that have been sold, lose all copyright rights after that first sale—no matter where in the world they were sold.

The First-Sale Doctrine has been used previously to prohibit the resale of legal products first sold outside of the USA, to be resold again inside the USA.

At least one patent attorney is saying that by implication, it is the same issue involving patented products. Ed O’Connor from the Eclipse Group says after the first sale of a patented product, such as a toner or ink cartridge, the same rule should apply, meaning all patents are also finished or exhausted.

O’Connor told Recycling Times, “Once you sell a copyrighted material overseas, your copyright rights are exhausted. Whether you sell it overseas, or sell it in the United States, your US copyright rights are exhausted upon first sale.”

He went on to say “What I am saying is, that by implication—because that is the same issue that is involved in the sale of patented product—the first sale of a patented products, whether it’s overseas or in the United States, will extinguish all patent rights. And therefore by implication people have the right to purchase used cartridges no matter where they are first sold, refurbish them, and resell them in the United States.”

The International Imaging Technology Council (I-ITC) which is an international trade association based in North America has also jumped on the news, featuring it on their website at

This Supreme Court ruling may very well pave the way for companies like Greentec and others who are facing lawsuits with Lexmark, among others, to continue the practice of sourcing empty cartridges outside of the USA for remanufacturing within the USA.

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