The Notorious RBG, Ink Cartridges, and Patent Exhaustion (Day 46)

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) upheld and reinforced its “patent exhaustion” doctrine. Very basically, once an object is sold, you can’t use patent law to stop the buyer from doing whatever they want with the object, including modifying and reselling it.

Case was about refilling and reselling Lexmark ink cartridges, and while consistent with other SCOTUS opinions, still a big win for consumers actually “owning” the things they buy.

It was decided 8-0/7-1 (8 instead of 9 as no Gorsuch yet), which is always nice to see the court all on the same side, especially considering the lower court ruled opposite, and was overturned in this decision. Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed about the foreign sale exhausting patent protection on that product, with an argument that truthfully makes no sense to me and I’m super glad didn’t have any traction (the defendant was importing cartridges sold in other countries to the US to refill and resell them).

So, SCOTUS choosing individual property rights over intellectual property rights. May seem a bit dry to a bunch of people, but quite important…and super exciting if you’re a law and policy nerd!

Also: its Supreme Court decision season! We’re near the end of the court’s session, which means all the important and contentious cases they’ve heard over the past several months will actually have their opinions finally decided and released. I’m most excited about a case addressing how the government can take private property, possibly modifying a (in my opinion quite problematic) 50 year old precedent set in Penn Central (Case is Murr v. Wisconsin)

SCOTUS opinion link, for those interested.

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