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Posts Tagged: "Impression Products v. Lexmark International"

Chief Judge Paul Michel: Patent Reform Progress is Likely, But We Must Stay Focused On the Big Picture

Last week during IPWatchdog’s Patent Masters Symposium, former Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel sat down with me to discuss the state of the U.S. patent system and best options/ predictions for moving forward. He began by lamenting that “the courts have failed and failed and failed” with flawed rulings such as Helsinn v. Teva, which Michel characterized as “completely illogical”, and Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. To boot, the Supreme Court has refused to take any patent eligibility cases, and the Federal Circuit has managed to make the harm and illogic of the SCOTUS rulings even worse, Michel said. In fact, they’ve “expanded on the bad rulings of the SCOTUS.” Part of the problem may lie in a misunderstanding of the true intent of the patent system, according to Michel. “The real point of the patent system is to incentivize innovation, not to encourage creative people. Creative people will create no matter what. Investment is extremely risky and costly—if the incentive to invest shrinks, and there is evidence that it has, we are in trouble.” Below, Michel offers more of his thoughts on the current patent landscape, including what to expect from pending legislation and why he is cautiously optimistic that change is coming soon.

Legislation Introduced in House to Repeal the PTAB and the AIA

There are 13 sections to Massie’s bill, many of which are geared towards the abolition of various statutes of the AIA. Perhaps the most salient portion of the proposed bill are sections regarding the abolishment of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) as well as the elimination of both inter partes review (IPR) and post-grant review (PGR) proceedings currently conducted by the PTAB. As the bill states, both IPR and PGR proceedings “have harmed the progress of science and the useful arts by subjecting inventors to serial challenges to patents.” The bill also recognizes that those proceedings have been invalidating patents at an unreasonably high rate and that patent rights should adjudicated in a judicial proceeding and not in the unfair adjudication proceedings which occur within the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Ex parte reexamination proceedings would be preserved by this bill as well.

Questions Raised by the Lexmark Decision

Licensing a product instead of selling it may also be a tool for avoiding international patent exhaustion. It is common to distribute software via license, and this might avoid international exhaustion, although it will not work for all products. For example, licensing a drug makes little sense. However, re-importation of a drug would be regulated by the FDA, and the conditions and chain of control of drugs might mitigate some of the international exhaustion issues there. As such, many companies are evaluating the extent of the decision on international exhaustion and how it affects their industries. Since companies have thousands of contracts already in place and the parties will have to reevaluate their positions going forward, this is causing mass confusion and restructuring of contracts and relationships.

Enforcing Post-Sale Restrictions After Lexmark: Contracts and Antitrust Issues

Like Lexmark, many technology companies rely on aftermarket revenue streams to fund ongoing investments in research and development needed to remain competitive in hotly contested technology markets. This model is prevalent in the software industry, where customers pay ongoing fees for software support, and in other industries in which manufacturers that sell durable goods offer aftermarket maintenance or service contracts… Without post-sale patent rights, Lexmark and others will need to alter their razors-and-razor-blades business models or adopt different strategies to safeguard the aftermarket revenue upon which they rely to remain competitive in fast-paced technology markets. Contract rights provide one avenue to protect aftermarket revenues, but companies that take this approach should proceed with caution to avoid antitrust liability.

TC Heartland: An Alternate Opinion – Not As Bad As It Seems

We believe that the fallout from the Court’s ruling last week will be less dire for patent owners than most commentators predict. The conventional wisdom is that TC Heartland will cause a mass exodus of patent filings from the Eastern District of Texas and other supposedly plaintiff-friendly venues to Delaware, the Northern District of California and, to a lesser extent, the other states. The assumption underlying this view is that all those plaintiffs will be forced to file in the state where the defendant is incorporated. Yet even post-TC Heartland, patent owners have options and can continue to be strategic about how and where they proceed.

Patent Exhaustion at the Supreme Court: Industry Reaction to Impression Products v. Lexmark

Bob Stoll: ”And it is the international exhaustion holding that is particularly troubling. Sales abroad act independently from the US patent system and there is no impact from the US patent system on those sales. Yet in this decision, the Supreme Court says that the foreign sale now diminishes patent rights in the US. All sorts of goods, including life-saving pharmaceuticals, are sold at lower prices in poor nations. This decision will encourage powerful foreign groups to gather products up and send them back to the US to get the higher prices. Or, companies will not be able to lower prices and sell their products in those countries. Both the poor in distant lands and the innovators in the US will suffer.”

Supreme Court rules Lexmark sales exhausted patent rights domestically and internationally

The Supreme Court determined that when a patent owner sells a product the sale exhausted patent rights in the item being sold regardless of any restrictions the patentee attempts to impose on the location of the sale. In other words, a sale of a patented product exhausts all rights — both domestic and international… Notably, the Supreme Court rejected the Government’s international exhaustion compromise, which would have been to recognize that a foreign sale exhausts patent rights unless those rights are expressly reserved. The Supreme Court found this to be nothing more than public policy, focusing on the expectations between buyer and seller rather than on the transfer of patent rights as required by the patent exhaustion doctrine.

Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Impression Products v. Lexmark International

On Tuesday, March 21st, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. The case surrounding the sale and resale of printer ink cartridges will require the Supreme Court to decide whether U.S. law surrounding patent exhaustion allows post-sale restrictions and if sales of a patented article outside of the U.S. exhausts the U.S. patent rights in that article… Arguing on behalf of petitioner Impression Products was Andrew Pincus who led off by noting that the first sale doctrine, in which an initial authorized sale of a patented item terminates all patent rights to that item, was a principle that goes all the way back to the 15th century… Appearing next in oral arguments was deputy U.S. solicitor general Malcolm L. Stewart supporting reversal in part and vacatur in part… Following Stewart was Constantine Trela, arguing on behalf of respondent Lexmark International. Trela agreed with the government in a limited sense in that the Federal Circuit properly looked to the statute to find origins and limits on the exhaustion doctrine.

Supreme Court of the United States to Hear Oral Arguments in Patent Exhaustion Case

On March 21, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments for the case of Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. The Court will decide: (i) whether the patent exhaustion doctrine applies in instances where a patented article is sold by the patent holder subject to a lawful and clearly communicated post-sale restriction; and (ii) whether the foreign sale of a U.S. patented article, authorized by the patent holder, exhausts the patent holder’s U.S. patent rights in that article.

Restricted Sales Do Not Exhaust Patent Rights Under Supreme Court Rulings

The Federal Circuit took the case en banc to review the applicability of the patent exhaustion doctrine under Mallinckrodt and Jazz Photo, in view of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Quanta and Kirtsaeng. The Federal Circuit affirmed the holdings in Mallinckrodt and Jazz Photo, and distinguished them from the Supreme Court’s decisions. In Quanta, the Supreme Court was reviewing whether a patentee’s rights in a product were exhausted by a licensee’s sale of a product.

CAFC reaffirms patent exhaustion doctrine cases en banc in Lexmark Int’l v. Impression Products

In a painfully long decision that at one point analyzed a 1628 statement of Lord Coke as relating to British common-law principles and what light that might shed on modern day patent exhaustion, the Federal Circuit held that when a patentee sells a patented article under otherwise-proper restrictions on resale and reuse communicated to the buyer at the time of sale, the patentee does not confer authority on the buyer to engage in the prohibited resale or reuse. The patentee does not exhaust its rights to charge the buyer who engages in those acts—or downstream buyers having knowledge of the restrictions—with patent infringement. The Federal Circuit also held that a foreign sale of a U.S. patented article, when made by or with the approval of the U.S. patentee, does not exhaust the patentee’s U.S. patent rights in the article sold, even when no reservation of rights accompanies the sale. Loss of U.S. patent rights based on a foreign sale remains a matter of express or implied license.