But the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the claim involving refurbished cartridges. Essentially, the court determined that when a patent holder sells a product, they can’t use patent law to control how the buyer uses it, no matter what kind of agreement the two parties sign.
Overall, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes in a statement, these decisions support the idea that intellectual property rights “should not be a hunting license that allows an owner to control and destroy any business that threatens their profits.” Companies can draw up contracts to control how their products are used — but they can’t expand the scope of patent law to do so.
In addition to restoring property rights, this is a major win for consumers in the United States. Although this case was originally about printer ink cartridges, it will also apply to other goods and services. Furthermore, the decision also applies to goods sold overseas which could prove to drastically reduce pricing disparities. Resellers are now free to purchase new goods internationally and sell them in the U.S. at those reduced prices.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said sellers give up their patent rights even when the purchaser agrees not to resell the product to anyone else. He said that rule applies regardless of whether the sale happens domestically or overseas.