Supreme Court Ruling on Printer Cartridges Changes What It Means to Buy Almost Anything - Chicago Tribune
These issues fit into a broader fight over what some experts call the “right to tinker.” The thinking goes: If you buy something, you should be free to do whatever you want with it — modify it, sell it, even destroy it. But some companies, even car manufacturers, have sought to put limits on that freedom. They make arguments such as Lexmark’s, asserting that handling a product in a way that potentially undermines the company’s business leads to a violation of patent or copyright protections. In this view, customers may think they own the physical property outright, but they are still constrained by an invisible cage made of corporate intellectual property.
The Supreme Court disagreed with this view. To help make its case, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. used an analogy:
“Take a shop that restores and sells used cars. The business works because the shop can rest assured that, so long as those bringing in the cars own them, the shop is free to repair and resell those vehicles. That smooth flow of commerce would sputter if companies that make the thousands of parts that go into a vehicle could keep their patent rights after the first sale.”