If you patent your product can you limit what your customer can do with it? Not so much says the U.S. Supreme Court in a decision released late last month. It involved a dispute over printer ink cartridges but this could be applied to any number of products. The end result is that patent holders, once their product is released into the market, can’t do much to control what purchasers and others do with it.
The case concerned Lexmark International, which sells printers in order to sell you much more profitable toner cartridges. The company can’t use patent law to stop companies from refilling and selling the cartridges, according to the decision.
Thanks to that ruling anyone who refurbishes, repairs or sells used products would now be protected from patent infringement claims. You also can’t be forced to buy supplies only from the original product source. The end result may be lower consumer prices for ink cartridges and perhaps other used products too.