SCOTUS rules on patent exhaustion case

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The U.S. Supreme Court has limited the ability of companies to collect royalties after the first sale of a patented product. The case tackled an issue of patent exhaustion that hasn't been ruled on in 66 years.

In a unanimous opinion this morning in Quanta Computer, et al. v. LG Electronics, No. 06-937, the nation's highest court said that longstanding patent law precedent extends to method patents that are often part of high-technology components and products.

"For over 150 years this Court has applied the doctrine of patent exhaustion to limit the patent rights that survive the initial authorized sale of a patented item," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the 22-page opinion. "Because the exhaustion doctrine applies to method patents and because the license authorizes the sale of components that substantially embody the patents in suit, the sale exhausted all patents."

Justices reversed a decision by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which came in a case focusing on whether South Korean company LG could sue to force the computer suppliers to pay royalties on components they legally purchased from Intel, even though Intel already paid royalties to LG in a technology licensing agreement.

One of those companies sued was Quanta, which argued that it didn't have to pay royalties to the original patent holder because of the patent exhaustion doctrine that only applied to the first sale.

In its ruling, the court rejected arguments that patents are never exhaustible. It relied on precedent that it described as supplying "solid footing" and focused heavily on the one last tackling this issue, U.S. v. Univis Lens Co., 316 U.S. 241 (1942) that involved patents for finished eyeglass lenses.

Indianapolis attorney Todd Vare with Barnes & Thornburg, who wasn't involved in this case but has watched it closely, urged other intellectual property lawyers to carefully review this opinion, whether they represent patent-holders, licensees or those offering patent indemnification.

"This could dramatically change patent licensing programs," he said, though he noted the ruling wasn't a surprise given the court's history in recent years of scaling back patent rights.

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.