Find the right lawyer now

Patent Exhaustion

Find a Local Intellectual Property Lawyer near You

What Is Patent Exhaustion?

Patents are a form of intellectual property. Patent exhaustion is also known as the doctrine of first sale. The rule essentially says that the owner of a patent cannot control the resale of a patented item, if the seller obtained it lawfully. When the product is sold, the patent, with respect to that individual product, is “exhausted.”

While patent law can be used to control the reconstruction or reverse-engineering of a patented product, it cannot be used to control resale price, or what the end user does with the product, under the doctrine of patent exhaustion.

There is a recent trend, however, of allowing contract law to overtake the doctrine of patent exhaustion. For example, one case held that a manufacturer of printers can place a warning on the box which tells consumers that they may not refill the ink cartridges. If the license is clearly written and visible, the court reasoned, it amounts to a contract which the user agrees to when he or she purchases the product.

Do I Need an Intellectual Property Lawyer?

If you have an issue with a patent or the doctrine of first sale, you should contact an intellectual property lawyer for help. Your lawyer will represent your best interests and ensure that your rights are protected.

Photo of page author Peter Clarke

, LegalMatch Content Manager

Last Modified: 06-11-2014 03:23 PM PDT

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.