Last week, an appeals court ruled that printer cartridge reseller, Impression Products Inc, had infringed the patent rights of Lexmark, after the reseller was found to have imported Lexmark’s toner products back into the United States from abroad, allowing it to undercut Lexmark’s prices.
Lexmark’s victory reinforced patent owners’ rights to control not just the copying of their product designs, but also the use of their products in the market after their sale.
In addition, the court found Impression Products Inc liable for re-filling and then selling on Lexmark’s patented cartridges under its ‘return and recycle’ scheme – cartridges that were originally marketed by Lexmark as ‘single-use only’ products.
Lexmark vice president Bob Patton claimed that the court’s decision would: “Assist Lexmark in its efforts to combat the importation and sale of inferior toner cartridges that infringe our intellectual property rights”.
In 2010, Lexmark sued a string of defendants for infringing its patented toner products by selling aftermarket cartridges refurbished by third parties. In all but one of these cases – an earlier case against Impression Products Inc – defendants settled.
Friday’s decision overturns a previous ruling that cleared Impression Products of liability over the sale of the printing giant’s single-use cartridges.
The decision will likely disappoint consumer groups, who had argued that patent law should not prevent customers from reselling or altering products they had lawfully purchased.