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Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc.

Lexmark, which manufactures patented printer-ink cartridges, brought this case against Impression Products, which buys, reconditions, and sells used cartridges. Lexmark contended that Impression’s activity infringed its patents, because Lexmark purports to condition sale and use of its cartridges on a prohibition against buyers from selling used cartridges for reuse. The Supreme Court accepted the case to decide two issues: whether patent law can be used to enforce conditions on the sale of patented articles given the longstanding principle that the first sale of a patented item exhausts patent rights, and whether first sales in foreign countries exhaust U.S. patent rights. Public Citizen submitted an amicus curiae brief supporting Impression Products. The brief explained that arguments by the pharmaceutical industry that a rule of international exhaustion would be harmful to access to patented medicines in lower-income countries are erroneous and should have no bearing on the outcome of the case. In its May 30, 2017 opinion, the Court held 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.