A Case of First Impression

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A Case of First Impression


It will hardly come as a surprise to frequent readers of this blog that the U.S. Supreme Court has (once more) jettisoned a legal principle fashioned by the Federal Circuit, nor that the opinion was largely without dissent (Justice Ginsburg did dissent in part).

The case, Impression Products v. Lexmark Internationalconcluded that a patentee’s decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose. While this simplifies patent law by eliminating the ability of a patentee to enforce restrictions placed on a patented product through an infringement suit – a mechanism sanctioned by the Federal Circuit for more than two decades – in practice, similar restrictions may be enforced through the application of contract law.

Still, that is a distinction with a difference, particularly given that contract law may be enforced through state courts and other federal courts of appeal. Once again, it seems that the Federal Circuit’s grip on patent law interpretation may be loosening.

 

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