On December 2, 2016, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a case regarding the scope of patent exhaustion, including whether foreign sales exhaust U.S. patent rights and if post-sale restrictions on patented items are permissible. Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., 15-1189. The Court’s resolution of this case may have important implications for global commerce and secondary markets of patented products.
In a long-awaited en banc decision, the Federal Circuit ruled that the patent exhaustion doctrine does not apply to (1) initial sales with a single-use/no-resale restriction, or (2) foreign sales, whether restricted or not. In doing so, the court found that the Supreme Court’s Quanta and Kirtsaeng decisions did not overrule Federal Circuit precedent.
Lexmark sold its printer cartridges in the U.S. and abroad. Some of the foreign-sold cartridges and all of the U.S.-sold cartridges were sold subject to a “single-use/no-resale restriction.” Impression acquired and modified Lexmark’s cartridges for resale in violation of the Lexmark restriction. Impression not only resold the U.S. cartridges but imported the foreign-sold Lexmark cartridges for resale in the U.S.