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U.S. Supreme Court building. (The NLJ/ Diego M. Radzinschi)
Should a patentee be able to control the future use or resale of a patented article that has entered the stream of commerce following a sale by the patentee? The Supreme Court answered that question in the negative on May 30, in Impression Products v. Lexmark International. Reversing 25 years of Federal Circuit precedent, the court held that “once a patentee decides to sell—whether on its own or through a licensee—that sale exhausts its patent rights, regardless of any post-sale restrictions the patentee purports to impose.” The court further held that it makes no difference for purposes of patent exhaustion whether the authorized sale of the article is first made in the United States or abroad.