全部 > 专利权国际用尽规则改变 打开“二手货”进军美国的大门(双语)

专利权国际用尽规则改变 打开“二手货”进军美国的大门(双语)
2017-09-12 17:34:29 阅读

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作者:Gary M. Hnath, Paul W. Hughes, and Jing Zhang

 

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如果你的公司在中国从事收购、维修和销售二手电脑生意,但所经手的电脑受美国专利保护该怎么办?你是否可以在中国收购二手电脑,经过修理后卖到美国?

2017年5月30日,美国最高法院在Impression Products vs. Lexmark International一案中判定专利权人的权利在授权美国境外产品销售时已用尽。这一判决改变了美国多年来的判例规则,中国企业购买专利权人在美国以外销售的产品并进行维修后重新卖回美国的大门也被打开。

本文邀请此案原告代理律师事务所美亚博律师事务所(Mayer Brown LLP)知识产权组资深合伙人Gary Hnath (何凯睿)团队对此案进行介绍,并于9月14日在浙江宁波举办的“智南针”沙龙美国专场中对美国专利权国际用尽、专利IPR程序(无效诉讼)、337诉讼等进行深度解读。关注更多内容,请大家关注9月14日在宁波举办的“智南针”沙龙美国专场。 

Your company in China is in the business of buying used computers, repairing them, and reselling them.  What if the computers are covered by U.S. patents?  Can you collect the used computers in China, repair them, and resell them in the United States?

如果你的公司在中国从事收购、维修和销售二手电脑生意,但所经手的电脑受美国专利保护该怎么办?你是否可以在中国收购二手电脑,经过修理后卖到美国呢? 

Until recently, the answer to that question was “no.”  In an earlier case decided in 2001, Jazz Photo Corp. v. United States International Trade Commission, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals had decided held that U.S. patent rights were limited to the U.S., and that sales of products outside the U.S. did not exhaust a patent owner’s rights.  

之前,对该问题的回答都是:“不可以”。早在2001年的一个案件中,爵士影像公司(Jazz Photo Corp.)与美国国际贸易委员会(United States International Trade Commission)对簿公堂,美国联邦巡回上诉法院裁定,美国的专利权虽仅限于美国境内,但在美国以外销售产品不会用尽其专利权。

 

In an important case recently decided on May 30, 2017, Impression Products v. Lexmark International, the U.S. Supreme Court changed the law and decided that a patent owner’s rights are exhausted by the authorized sale of a product outside of the United States.    As a result of the decision, Chinese companies can now purchase products that have been sold by the patent owner outside of the United States, repair those products, and resell them in the United States without infringing any U.S. patents relating to the products.  

然而,2017年5月30日,在印象产品公司(Impression Products)与利盟国际公司(Lexmark International)的案件中,美国最高法院更改了法律,并判定专利权人的权利在授权美国境外产品销售时已用尽。基于这一判决,中国的公司如今可以购买专利权人在美国以外销售的产品并进行维修后重新卖回美国,而不用担心会侵害与该产品有关的专利权。

 

This article will summarize the Impression Products decision and, at the same time, provide some insights into how one can successfully bring a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

本文将总结印象产品公司一案的判决,同时分析如何在美国最高法院进行辩护。

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The Impression Products case involved toner cartridges used in laser printers.  Lexmark designs, manufactures, and sells toner cartridges to consumers in the United States and worldwide.  When toner cartridges run out of toner, they can be refilled and used again.  This creates an opportunity for other companies, known as “remanufacturers,” to acquire empty Lexmark cartridges, refill them with toner, and then resell them at a lower price than new cartridges or refilled cartridges sold by Lexmark.

印象产品公司案涉及用于激光打印机的墨粉盒。利盟国际主要从事墨粉盒的设计、制造和销售,产品面向美国和全球的消费者。当墨粉盒的墨粉用完时,可以填充墨粉并重新使用。这为其他公司(即“再造商”)创造了商机。这些再造商收购空的利盟墨粉盒,重新填充墨粉,然后以比利盟的新墨粉盒或再填充墨粉盒更低的价格再次销售。

 

Lexmark attempted to restrict this practice of selling its manufactured cartridges in two ways.  First, it started a “Return Program” in which it reduced the price of its cartridges if purchasers agrees to return the empty cartridges to Lexmark, rather than having them recycled by third parties.  Second, Lexmark, citing the Federal Circuit’s earlier decision in Jazz Photo, asserted that repairing and reselling cartridges that were first sold outside of the United States infringed Lexmark’s patent rights. 

利盟采取了两种措施以限制这种做法。首先,利盟推出了“回收计划”,即如果购买者同意将空墨粉盒返还利盟集团,而不是将其卖给第三方,则可以降低墨粉盒的价格。第二,利盟国际援引美国联邦巡回上诉法院关于爵士影像公司的判决,宣布修理和转售在美国以外首次销售的墨粉盒侵犯了利盟国际的专利权。

 

Impression Products sold remanufactured toner cartridges that were made from empty cartridges that had been collected outside of the United States.  Lexmark sued Impression Products for patent infringement in the U.S. District Court in Kentucky.  The district court judge found in part for Impression Products that it was illegal to place resale restrictions on the cartridges, but agreed with Lexmark that international exhaustion did not apply.  On appeal, the Federal Circuit, citing its previous decisions, including Jazz Photo, sided with Lexmark on both issues.

印象产品公司主要从美国境外回收空墨粉盒,填充墨粉后再进行销售。利盟国际向美国肯塔基州地方法院起诉印象产品公司侵犯其专利权。地方法院的法官部分支持印象产品公司,认为限制墨粉盒再销售是违法的,但也同意利盟国际的意见,认为在国际范围内专利权用尽的原则不适用。在上诉时,联邦巡回上诉法院援引以前的决定,包括爵士影像公司案的判决,在这两个问题上都支持利盟国际的主张。

 

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Impression Products decided to appeal the Federal Circuit decision in this case.  The challenge was to overturn the Jazz Photo decision and create new law.  This was not an easy task.  While Federal Circuit decisions can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, very few decisions are actually accepted by the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court generally only takes about 1% or 2% of the cases in which parties ask for review—and parties ask for review in only a small fraction of the total cases decided each year.

在联邦巡回上诉法院做出判决后,印象产品公司决定就该判决申请上诉,其面临的挑战是要推翻爵士影像公司案的判决并催生新的法律。这并非易事。尽管可以对联邦巡上诉回法院的判决向美国最高法院申请上诉,但只有极少此类诉讼被最高法院受理 (美国最高法院可以自由裁量是否受理任一上诉申请)。通常,最高法院只受理约1%或2%某涉案方申请上诉的案件。事实上,下级法院每年的判决只有很少一部分会被某涉案方申请上诉。

 

In recent years, however, the Supreme Court has taken a greater interest in intellectual property cases, including patent cases, because of the importance of these cases to technology and the economy.  The following graph shows this increasing trend in recent years:

然而,近年来,鉴于知识产权案件(包括专利案件)对技术和经济发展的重要性,最高法院对此类案件的关注度明显提升。

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下图展示了近年来的提升趋势:

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Still, it was a challenge to position the case for review since the Supreme Court accepts very few cases.  The first step was to file a “petition for certiorari” asking the Supreme Court to consider the case.  In the “petition for certiorari,” parties typically explain why the Supreme Court should consider the case by arguing that the case is exceptionally important.  In order to convince the Supreme Court that this was a case of great importance, Impression Products obtained the support of many other companies and organizations who sided with its position and agreed to file “amicus,” or “friend of the Court,” briefs. To obtain such support, it was important to explain to potential supporters how they were individually impacted by the legal rules at issue. These briefs were critical in Impression Products’ effort to convince the Supreme Court that this was an issue which it should consider. 

尽管如此,由于最高法院受理的上诉申请很少,准备案件的上诉申请工作是一项严峻的挑战。第一步是要向最高法院提交“司法审查申请” (“petition for certiorari”) (即上诉申请),请求最高法院对该案进行司法审查。在“司法审查申请”中,上诉方通常会论述案件的特殊重要性以说服美国最高法院受理该申请。为了让最高法院认识到该案的重要性,印象产品公司争取到许多其他公司和组织的支持,他们支持印象产品公司的观点,并同意作为“法庭之友”提交陈述 (brief)。为了得到“法庭之友”的支持,上诉方应注重向潜在的支持者解释该案所涉及的法律将如何对他们产生切身的影响。本案中这些“法庭之友”陈述至关重要,表明该案不仅对印象产品公司,而且对许多其他公司也至关重要,从而帮助上诉人说服最高法院应该受理该案件。

 

As a result of these efforts, the Supreme Court “granted certiorari” and agreed to take the case to consider the issue of international patent exhaustion.  Both sides filed briefs with the Supreme Court.  Impression Products’ key position on the international exhaustion issue was that exhaustion is compelled by the common law and protects consumer rights, while Lexmark countered that it should be able to price-discriminate based on the country in which the product is sold.  Once again, Impression Products obtained the support of many important companies and organizations, e.g., Intel and the American Antitrust Institute. Of course, Lexmark also enlisted companies and organizations that filed amicus briefs to support its position, including IBM and Qualcomm. Amicus briefs were important in this case, similar to other cases, because they helped explain the underlying policy concerns to the Supreme Court. 

通过这些努力,最高法院最终“同意司法审查”(granted certiorari) (即受理上诉),并同意通过该案重新考量国际专利权用尽问题。之后,诉讼双方都向最高法院提交了详细论述实体法律问题的陈述。印象产品公司在“国际用尽” 问题上的主要论点是“用尽”是普通法(common law)的要求,同时有利于消费者权益的保护,而利盟国际公司的反驳论点是它有根据产品销售地区不同区别定价的权力。 印象产品公司再一次争取到了许多重要公司和组织的支持,例如英特尔 (Intel)和美国反垄断协会 (Amercian Antitrust Institute)。当然,利盟国际也争取到了一些公司和组织向法庭提交陈述以支持他们的主张,包括IBM和高通公司。法庭之友”陈述在实际审理阶段也非常重要,因为它们将帮助美国最高法院理解与案件相关的政策性考量。

 

The final step was oral argument before the Supreme Court.  The case was argued on March 21, 2017, before eight of the Supreme Court Justices (Justice Gorsuch was new and did not participate in the argument or decision).  The oral argument lasted for one hour, with each side having one half hour to present its case.  The courtroom was packed with many interested observers wanting to see the argument and get some sense for how the Court might decide the issue. It is interesting that the Court asked comparatively few questions; often, the Court asks many more questions when the issues are so important.

最后一步是在最高法院进行口头辩论。此案于2017年3月21日在最高法院法8位法官前进行了辩论(戈萨奇法官未参与该案的辩论及审判)。辩论持续了一个小时,诉讼双方都有半小时的时间来阐述各自观点。法庭里挤满了许多感兴趣的观察员,他们希望现场倾听双方辩论,了解法院如何做出判决。有趣的是美国最高法院在本案中提出的问题相对较少。通常而言,当问题如此重要时法院往往会提出更多的问题。

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On May 30, 2017, the Supreme Court announced its decision in favor of Impression Products.  The Court held that patent rights in a product are exhausted after an authorized sale of the product by the patent owner, and that the doctrine of patent exhaustion applies “regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose or the location of the sale.”

2017年5月30日,最高法院宣布判决,支持印象产品公司。法院认定,专利所有人在授权销售产品后,产品的专利权即被用尽,并且“专利权人意图施加的任何限制或销售地点”不影响专利权用尽原则的适用。

 

On the issue of international patent exhaustion, the Court held in a 7 to 1 vote (only one Justice dissenting) that a patentee’s U.S. rights are exhausted by the authorized sale of an article outside of the U.S.  The Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit’s earlier decision in Jazz Photo, and consistent with a prior decision of the Court in the copyright area, it held that the patent exhaustion doctrine is “borderless” and that U.S. patent rights are therefore exhausted by foreign sales in the same way as by domestic sales.  As the Court explained, exhaustion occurs because, in a sale, the patentee elects to give up title to an item in exchange for payment.  As a result, “restrictions and location are irrelevant; what matters is the patentee’s decision to make a sale.”

关于国际专利权用尽问题,最高法院以7:1的投票(只有一名法官反对)通过决议,规定专利权人授权的美国境外物品销售用尽其美国专利权。最高法院推翻了联邦巡回上诉法院之前在爵士影像公司案中的判决。与之前一起版权案件的判决保持一致,最高法院认定专利权用尽原则在适用性方面“没有边界”,如同国内销售一样,国外销售也将用尽美国专利权。最高法院进一步解释,专利权用尽是因为在销售活动中,专利权人选择放弃物品的所有权以换取付款。因此,该原则与“[专利权人施加的]限制和地理位置无关;而只与专利权人进行销售的决定有关。”

 

The Court also held that a patentee such as Lexmark could not use patent law to enforce post sale restrictions on how an article may be used or resold, because the authorized first sale exhaust the patentee rights.  The Court explained that “patent exhaustion is uniform and automatic.” Any limitation a patentee wishes to impose on a good must be done by contract. But contracts will generally not apply to persons or entities that have no direct relationship with the product manufacturer.

最高法院还认定,像利盟国际这样的专利权人不能通过专利法来限制销售后的商品该如何使用或再次销售,因为首次销售的授权已用尽专利权人的权利。法院解释称,“专利权用尽是统一的、自动的”。专利权人希望施加的限制必须通过合同来实现,但合同通常不适用于与产品制造商没有直接关系的个人或实体。

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Before the Supreme Court’s decision, companies wishing to repair used products covered by patents had to obtain the used products from the United States, along with evidence that those products had first been sold in the United States, which was not always easy to demonstrate.  As a result of our victory in the Supreme Court, companies in China may now purchase products that have been sold by the patentee in foreign countries, including China, repair those products, and resell them in the United States without fear of being sued for patent infringement.  The case represents an extremely important development which will greatly increase the ability of Chinese companies to compete internationally.

在最高法院对此案做出判决之前,从事修理二手专利产品的公司必须从美国收购二手产品,并取得证据证明这些产品首次在美国销售(而这并非易事)。得益于最高法院这一判决,中国公司现在可以购买专利权人在美国国外(包括中国)销售的产品并进行修理后在美国转售,而不用担心被起诉侵权。该案推动了专利权领域的重要发展,将大大提高中国企业的国际竞争力。

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