SCOTUS Decision on Printer Cartridges Could Impact Drug Imports

June 6, 2017

The Supreme Court’s ruling on a patent dispute over printer toner cartridges could have wider effects on the pharmaceutical industry, international sales and product reimportation.

The court held that after an individual product is sold, either domestically or internationally, all of the patent rights on that product are exhausted — specifically, that a manufacturer cannot impose patent restrictions on a product after it has been purchased.

The ruling weakens barriers against parallel importation, which could reduce drugmakers’ revenues as people reimport pharmaceuticals initially sold overseas at a lower cost, according to PhRMA and BIO, which filed amicus briefs in the high court’s case.

The Supreme Court reversed a Federal Circuit decision that sided with computer printer manufacturer Lexmark — whose business model included selling toner cartridges at a lower cost, as long as the purchaser agreed to return the spent cartridges directly to the company.

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