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Patent case in Supreme Court results in win for small businesses

A recent Supreme Court ruling could impact businesses involved in patent infringement and patent law cases throughout the country. The Supreme Court recently ruled that companies are able to purchase used, or already sold, patented items and resell them without violating patent law.

The case involved a global laser printer company, Lexmark International, and Impression Products, a small business with 25 employees. The patent case stemmed from Impression Products buying, remanufacturing and selling used printer cartridges at a lower price compared to new ink cartridges, like the ones sold by Lexmark International.

This is something that many smaller companies have been doing, but Impression Products is the one company that did not settle with Lexmark International after filing a patent lawsuit against the companies reselling their cartridges.

One thing to note is that Lexmark International would give customers 20 percent off the purchase price of a new ink cartridge but require consumers no to resell their cartridges. The terms of this agreement are listed on the cartridge box and customers agree to these terms when they open the cartridge box.

Lexmark International filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the smaller companies who would remanufacture and sell their used ink cartridges instead of going after each individual customer for violating this agreement.

The impact of the Supreme Court ruling

In court, Impression Products argued “that the patent holders’ rights extend only to the initial sale and after that, customers are free to do what they please with the product,” according to court documents. The Supreme Court agreed with this argument, stating that as soon as the original cartridges were sold, Lexmark exhausted their patent rights.

How does this ruling affect patent infringement cases in the future? One news column pointed out that it is major win for consumers. The Supreme Court ruling against a corporation signifies how consumers will continue to be protected in certain patent infringement cases, and means that cheaper products will continue to be available to the public, such as electronic devices or prescription drugs.

Small businesses often struggle to compete with large corporations and may find themselves facing a patent infringement lawsuit to stop the sale of their products. The Supreme Court ruling may change how these cases are handled in the future but only time will tell.

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