APRA Files Friend Of The Court Brief For Patent Case

The Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association (APRA) has joined two other trade associations in filing a friend of the court brief in the United States Supreme Court opposing the right of a patent holder to impose post-sale restrictions on the use of its patented products. If the right to impose such restrictions were to be upheld, the manufacturer of a patented product might include restrictive language in its sales documents not only to prevent certain uses of the product, but also to limit or deny the right of all subsequent owners of the product to resell, repair or refurbish that product.

The case, Vernon Hugh Bowman v. Monsanto Company, et al., addresses the legal issue as to whether patent rights terminate at the time of sale of a product or whether a patent holder can impose post-sale restrictions.

Since the early 20th century, patent law has held that a holder’s rights are “exhausted” at the time of the first sale of the product. The purchaser and others are free to use, resell or repair the item in any way they wish.

In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld this exhaustion doctrine and denied that post-sale restrictions constitute an exception to the application of the exhaustion doctrine. In the present case, the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ignored the earlier case and upheld the right of a patent holder to impose post sale restrictions on all subsequent users.

APRA is again asking the court to overrule the lower court’s decision on post-sale restrictions. If Monsanto’s position is upheld, any patent holder could effectively dictate to any subsequent owner of a patented product sold by it how, when and where the product could be used and reused.

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The Locator Magazine February 2020
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