San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to protect consumers' traditional right to use, repair, and resell the products they own, even if those products are patented. At stake is the enforceability of "single use" and "not for resale" labels on patented products.
The amicus brief -- submitted on behalf of EFF, Consumers Union, and Public Knowledge -- was filed in Quanta v. LG Electronics, currently pending before the Supreme Court. The case will test the vitality of the "patent exhaustion" doctrine, which entitles a consumer to use, repair, or resell patented products that they have purchased.
The issue is of increasing importance to consumers, who often face "single use only" and "not for resale" labels on patented products, interfering with legitimate aftermarkets for parts and service. Lexmark, for example, has used "single use only" labels to limit the market for refilled toner cartridges. Similarly, "not for resale" labels could interfere with used and refurbished product sales on eBay and Craigslist. EFF's brief urges the Supreme Court to prohibit patent owners from using patent infringement suits to enforce these kinds of post-sale use restrictions on the products they sell.
"Patent owners are trying to use 'label licenses' to deprive consumers of their right to use, repair and resell the products they own," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "It's time for the Supreme Court to step in and put a stop to it."
The case is No. 06-937. The Solicitor General, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Gateway all urged the Supreme Court to review the case, and oral argument is expected in early 2008.
For the full amicus brief:
Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation