Ownership and post-sale restrictions

While all the attention is on John Deere and the Nebraskan famers, there’s another case pending in the US looking at post-sale restrictions of product use. Lexmark is trying to use patent law to prop up their business model.

While this is not strictly about licensing and software in products (but it could be), it’s interesting to note that we’re increasingly discussing questions of what exactly ownership is, in the first place.

Impression Products v. Lexmark International is Lexmark’s latest attempt to prevent purchasers from reusing and refilling its ink cartridges with cheaper ink. If Lexmark can use patent law to accomplish this, it won’t just affect the person or company that buys the cartridge, but also anyone who later acquires or refills it, even if they never agreed to what Lexmark wanted. […]

Courts and legal scholars have long acknowledged that such restrictions impair the purchasers’ personal autonomy, interfere with efficient use of property, create confusion in markets, and increase information costs. The Federal Circuit’s ruling is even out of step with copyright law, whose exhaustion principle is codified in the first sale doctrine.