A small Charleston company that refills and resells empty toner cartridges could soon be defending itself before the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute that could affect huge tech companies and pharmaceutical firms.
Lexmark, a Lexington, Kentucky-based printing corporation, sued Impression Products, accusing the company of patent infringement for selling its cartridges, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
At issue is what is known as the first-sale doctrine, a principle limiting a patent holder's rights after a product has been sold once.
Impression Products argued Lexmark's patents on its cartridges are no longer effective after the cartridges are sold, allowing the smaller company to sell them freely. Lexmark cartridges can cost up to hundreds of dollars, and Impression Products sells used ones at a lower price.
In February, a federal court sided with Lexmark, saying the corporation's patent rights weren't exhausted, regardless of whether the cartridges were being purchased from U.S. or foreign suppliers — Impression Products has purchased toner cartridges from Canadian suppliers in the past.
Last month, the federal government recommended the Supreme Court review the case.
Impression Products President Eric Smith explained that while this doesn't guarantee that the justices will review the case, it sharply increases the probability of it happening.
The implications of the case go beyond ink cartridges, as Samsung and Google have backed Impression Products' argument. The tech giants operate foreign supply chains that would have to jump through additional hoops if the first-sale doctrine did not apply for foreign purchases. Pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer have supported Lexmark, with a Lexmark victory likely giving their own patents greater protection.
The Supreme Court will resolve a patent dispute between companies that make adult diapers.
The justices said Monday they will hear an appeal from SCA Hygiene Products AB, which argues that it did not wait too long to file a patent infringement lawsuit against rival First Quality Baby Products LLC.
The divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled last year that SCA's six-year delay in bringing the lawsuit was unreasonable.
SCA is relying on a 2014 Supreme Court case that said unreasonable delay is not a defense against claims of copyright infringement. The company says the same reasoning applies to patent cases.
The court will hear arguments in the case when its new term begins in the fall.
The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from Nevada over a lawsuit that claims the state wrongfully bused indigent psychiatric patients to San Francisco without paying the costs of their medical care.
The justices on Tuesday let stand a lower court decision that said California state courts have authority to hear the case challenging Nevada's discharge policies.
San Francisco is seeking $500,000 in reimbursement costs for treating 29 patients who were given vouchers for one-way bus tickets to California. It also wants an order barring Nevada from sending over any more patients.
A California Superior Court judge ruled that Nevada could be sued in California because it knew San Francisco would have to spend money on the patients.
Nevada claims the lawsuit interferes with its sovereign powers.
A federal appeals court has overturned a jury decision awarding $920 million in damages to the DuPont Co. in a trade-secrets lawsuit involving high-strength synthetic fibers used in products such as Kevlar body armor.
The appeals court in Richmond, Va., said Thursday that a trial judge abused his discretion and prejudiced South Korea-based Kolon Industries in 2011 when he granted a pretrial motion by DuPont. The court said that in doing so, the judge excluded evidence material to Kolon's defense.
Costco, eBay, Google and the nation's top art museums are backing a Thai graduate student against book publishers, the movie and music industries and other manufacturers in a Supreme Court battle over copyright protections with important implications for consumers and multibillion dollar annual sales online and in discount stores.
Supap Kirtsaeng was studying in the United States when he struck a nerve in the publishing world by tapping into the market for cheaper college textbooks. Kirtsaeng re-sold copyrighted books that relatives first bought abroad.
His profitable venture provoked a copyright infringement lawsuit from publisher John Wiley & Sons. The case is being argued Monday at the high court.
Kirtsaeng used eBay to sell $900,000 worth of books published abroad by Wiley and others and made about $100,000 in profit. The international editions of the textbooks were essentially the same as the more costly American editions. A jury in New York awarded Wiley $600,000 after deciding Kirtsaeng sold copies of eight Wiley textbooks without permission.
The issue at the Supreme Court concerns what protection the holder of a copyright has after a product made outside the United States is sold for the first time. In this case, the issue is whether U.S. copyright protection applies to items that are made abroad, purchased abroad and then resold in the U.S. without the permission of the manufacturer. The high court split 4-4 when it tried to answer that question in a case in 2010 involving Costco and Swiss watch maker Omega.
The Supreme Court upheld a law Wednesday that extended U.S. copyright protection to books, musical compositions and other works by foreign artists that had been available without paying royalties.
The justices said in a 6-2 decision Wednesday that Congress acted within its power to give protection to works that had been in the public domain. The law's challengers complained that community orchestras, academics and others who rely on works that are available for free have effectively been priced out of performing "Peter and the Wolf" and other pieces that had been mainstays of their repertoires.
The case concerned a 1994 law that was intended to bring the U.S. into compliance with an international treaty on intellectual property. The law made copyright protection available to foreign works that previously could not have been copyrighted.
The court ruled in 2003 that Congress may extend the life of a copyright. Wednesday's decision was the first time it said that published works lacking a copyright could later be protected.
"Neither congressional practice nor our decisions treat the public domain, in any and all cases, as untouchable by copyright legislation. The First Amendment likewise provides no exceptional solicitude for works in the public domain," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her opinion for the court.
But Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for himself and Justice Samuel Alito, said that an important purpose of a copyright is to encourage an author or artist to produce new work. "The statute before us, however, does not encourage anyone to produce a single new work. By definition, it bestows monetary rewards only on owners of old works," Breyer said.
File-sharing software company LimeWire, which shut down last year after being barred from allowing people to share copyright-protected files online, reached a $105 million out-of-court settlement with the major record labels Thursday, the labels said.
In a statement, Recording Industry Association of America Chairman Mitch Bainwol said his group, which represents the labels, is pleased with the settlement.
“The resolution of this case is another milestone in the continuing evolution of online music to a legitimate marketplace that appropriately rewards creators,” he later added.
LimeWire, which had enabled people to share songs and other files over the Internet, had been fighting the RIAA for several years.
The RIAA argued LimeWire’s software encouraged illegal sharing of copyrighted music. Last May LimeWire was found liable of copyright infringement, with a trial to follow early this year. That trial started last week.
In October, LimeWire received a federal injunction forcing it to disable key functions of its software. At that time, the company said it would continue developing a new service that would include a desktop player, mobile apps and a catalog of music from which people could legally stream and download songs.