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News & Press: Government Affairs News

Supreme Court Rules in Wide-Reaching Patent Suit

Thursday, June 1, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bradley Coffey, MA, AAOE Government Affairs
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Washington, DC - The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) dealt a blow to corporations attempting to use patent law to prevent consumers from doing as they please with the products they purchase. In Impression Products v. Lexmark (2017) the Court has ruled that companies like Lexmark, a printer and toner manufacturing company, may not use patent law to prevent consumers from purchasing and using refurbished and refilled toner cartridges.

In his opinion for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. wrote: "Take a shop that restores and sells used cars. The business works because the shop can rest assured that, so long as those bringing in the cars own them, the shop is free to repair and resell those vehicles. That smooth flow of commerce would sputter if companies that make the thousands of parts that go into a vehicle could keep their patent rights after the first sale."

So what does this mean for orthopaedics? While your office may or may not use a laser-jet printer which was the product of concern in this case, the Court's holding has vast ramifications for all kinds of issues affecting the end-user of a particular technology.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a blog post right after the Court ruled that "the next logical step will be for courts to recognize that people who buy digital goods are owners of those goods, not mere licensees, and can resell and tinker with their digital goods to the same extent as purchases of tangible property." This could have broad reaching implications for your practice's electronic medical records and your ability to customize the software to fit your practice's needs after the purchase.

However, don't expect business technology vendors to take this ruling lying down. "In view of Lexmark, I expect that technology owners will diversify their legal strategies used to protect their products," Seth Heller an intellectual property lawyer Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider told the Washington Post.

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