Supreme Court Urged to Defend “Patent Exhaustion” Doctrine

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed an amicus brief to plead the case of customer protection by invoking the ‘patent exhaustion’ doctrine.

According to EFF, Public Knowledge, AARP and the AARP Foundation, and Mozilla and R Street have joined EFF in the brief to argue that conditional sales cannot impose arbitrary conditions on customer’s use of a product.

In the case of Impression v. Lexmark, Lexmark claimed Impression Products has infringed its patent by refilling and reselling Lexmark’s cartridges. And the Federal Circuit has decided in Lexmark’s favor. EFF claims that the Federal Circuit’s ruling was incorrect for that it goes against the doctrine of “patent exhaustion,” which dictates that the owner loses its IP right once the product is sold.

Impression Products to Appeal to the US Supreme Court

“If allowed to stand, the lower court’s decision could block your right to reuse, resell, and tinker with the devices you own,” said EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer. “Under this theory, consumers could be held liable for infringement for using products purchased legally, and that the patent owner has already been paid for.”

US Supreme Court to hear Lexmark v. Impression Products Case

“This trick is straight out of some companies’ wish lists for restricting user rights,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kit Walsh. “They have tried a variety of legal tactics to restrict your ability to repair or resell the things you buy, and to prevent experts from investigating how they work. That includes experts who want to figure out if your devices are secure and respecting your privacy, or who want to build products that can plug in to your devices and make them do new and useful things. We urge the Supreme Court to reaffirm the patent exhaustion doctrine, and protect people’s rights to own and understand the products they’ve purchased.”

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