U.S. Supreme Court hands down ruling favorable to Mink Shoals Company

Published: May. 31, 2017 at 12:41 AM EDT
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MINK SHOALS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A company based in Mink Shoals that was sued by a major printing corporation received a favorable decision from the United States Supreme Court Tuesday.

Impression Products is a company that refills and then sells recycled toner cartridges used in printers. Lexmark claimed patent infringement for instances connected to its recycled products being sold in the United States.

The company's president Eric Smith told WSAZ in September of 2015 when the suit was filed that the majority of the cartridges he refills came from within the United States. He also said that his company refills several brands of cartridges, not just the Lexmark brand.

The high court disagreed with the infringement claim.

"Today's ruling is not only a victory for Impression Products but for all consumers worldwide. This ruling more importantly saved hundreds of thousands of jobs today and it is now clear when you purchase a product, it is yours to do whatever you choose and the entity that made it doesn't get to control it or you in perpetuity," Smith said in an email to WSAZ Tuesday night.

Smith, whose company employed 25 people in 2015, said that one area hospital saves more than $1 million a year on its toner costs by using recycled Lexmark products.

Despite calling it a long and stressful battle for the past seven years, Smith believed since the suit was filed that the ruling would be in his favor.

"My hope is that all West Virginians take pride and ownership in this case (with us) as it was a WV (sic) company that stood up to the multi-billionaire giant Lexmark International and fought for everyone's rights and made history," Smith said.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the opinion of the court that:

"When a patentee sells one of its products, however, the patentee can no longer control that item through the patent laws—its patent rights are said to 'exhaust.' The purchaser and all subsequent owners are free to use or resell the product just like any other item of personal

property, without fear of an infringement lawsuit."

The opinion went on to say:

"We conclude that a patentee's decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose or the location of the sale."