Obama Administration Asks Supreme Court to Review Lexmark vs. Impression Products Case

Lexmark X364dn Imaging Cartridges

Reuters reports that, last week, the Obama administration filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to overturn a ruling that allows Lexmark International to sue aftermarket resellers of its “single use” toner cartridges on the basis of alleged infringement of Lexmark patents.

U.S. Solicitor General Ian Heath Gershengorn is said to have urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit, which ruled in February 2016 that Impression Products of West Virginia had infringed upon Lexmark’s patents by marketing refurbished Lexmark cartridges that originally were sold with “single use” or “no resale” restrictions in the United States and overseas.


In February 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. ruled that third-party printer-cartridge maker Impression Products infringed on Lexmark International’s patents when it imported remanufactured Lexmark laser-printer toner cartridges back into the United States after they were first sold overseas.

The closely watched case reinforces U.S. patent owners’ ability to control the use of their products after they are sold. The court also found Impression Products liable for selling refurbished Lexmark toner cartridges that were originally marketed for a single use under Lexmark’s return-and-recycle toner-cartridge program.

The decision “will assist Lexmark in its efforts to combat the importation and sale of inferior toner cartridges that infringe our intellectual property rights,” said Lexmark Vice President and General Counsel Bob Patton, in a statement at the time of the ruling.

The decision upholds a ruling by a lower federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio, that found Impression Products liable for selling Lexmark’s cartridges first sold abroad. It also overturned a ruling that cleared Impression Products from liability over the sale of Lexmark’s cartridges in the United States. Consumer groups had argued patent law should not restrict customers from reselling or altering products they lawfully purchased.

In 2010, Lexmark had sued several companies for allegedly infringing upon its toner-cartridge patents by remanufacturing and reselling the cartridges, with all of the companies settling with Lexmark except for Impression Products.

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