Printer cartridge companies lost big at the Supreme Court today. Related decisions of 8-0 and 7-1 were handed down against Lexmark International which was trying to stop refurbished versions of its printer cartridges from undercutting its U.S. sales, according to

The Court ruled that the patent rights held by a company cease to exist when the company sells the product. Specifically, the court ruled that Lexmark could not keep companies from re-inking and re-selling used cartridges.

The dispute involved inkjet cartridges that were refilled and sold by Impression Products Inc. of Charleston, West Virginia. Lexmark said Impression was infringing its patents.

Impression said Lexmark, based in Lexington, Kentucky, had already been paid for the use of its inventions and had exhausted its rights. The court agreed.

Writing for the majority opinion of the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said sellers can’t stop a company from reselling a product it purchases after the patent-holder has sold the product, regardless of whether the sale happens domestically or overseas.

“Extending the patent rights beyond the first sale would clog the channels of commerce, with little benefit from the extra control that the patentees retain.”

John Roberts

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