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US Supreme Court Rules on Patent Exhaustion

The Supreme Court of the United States has issued a decision in the case of Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc.  At issue was whether or not Impression Products could acquire empty Lexmark cartridges from purchasers in the U.S. and overseas, refill them, and resell them in the U.S. The Court held that Lexmark exhausted its patent rights in toner cartridges sold in the United States through its “Return Program”, even though contractual restrictions prevented the purchasers of those toner cartridges from transferring them to anyone other than Lexmark.  The Court further held that Lexmark cannot sue Impression Products for patent infringement with respect to cartridges Lexmark sold abroad, which Impression Products acquired from purchasers and imported into the United States. A full copy of the decision can be accessed here.

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