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SCOTUS hears arguments on patent rights and refilling printer cartridges

Gizmodo – Supreme Court Printer Cartridge Case Could Be the Citizens United of Products

“It’s an obscure case that hasn’t received a ton of attention as it has made its way to the Supreme Court but the final verdict could set off a cascade of consequences in the world of consumer products. This week, oral arguments were heard in the case of Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. and according to the well-regarded SCOTUSblog it seems that the justices are having a tough time figuring out how to view this difficult legal tangle themselves. At its most basic, the case is a dispute over Lexmark’s patent rights regarding refilling printer cartridges. Impression Products is a small business with about 25 employees. It specializes in buying used printer cartridges and remanufacturing them. In 2012, Lexmark decided to add Impression to an already existing lawsuit against other remanufacturers. While the other defendants eventually settled, Image has stuck it out and the case has made it to the highest court in the land. You can read the full, technical details of the case here but the simple version goes like this: Since the ‘90s Lexmark has used what’s called a “shrink-wrap license” with its cartridges. It offers a “prebate” to consumers by knocking off 20% of the price in exchange for their agreement to never resell or reuse the cartridge. The consumer agrees to this the second they open the package. Essentially, Lexmark believes that those cartridges belong to them, not the consumer reselling them because the consumer didn’t have the right to sell them in the first place.”

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