2017年6月1日 星期四

最高法院對權利耗盡的明確態度 - Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc.

前情提要:

本案例「Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc.」涉及美國專利權到底是採用「國內耗盡」還是「國際耗盡」原則?這個問題衍生也是偶爾會看到的"疑似侵權"的產品 - 原廠墨水匣回收重製的再生墨水匣,而且特別是在國外回收墨水匣重製又再進口美國販售。

CAFC2016年結論:
本案在CAFC判決中確認:(1)原販售者(通常指專利權人)可以使用其「專利權」阻止下游(通常指零售業者)對其專利產品的重新使用與重新販售的行為,如此案爭議的印表機墨水卡匣;(2)專利產品經販售至外國時,即便經授權販售,應推定並未耗盡美國專利權。

案件進入美國最高法院,最高法院要作出的決定:
(1)是否「專利權耗盡原則」適用在由專利權人販售的專利商品之後的販售行為(post-sale)?
(2)是否美國以外經專利權人授權的國外販售行為已經耗盡該商品的美國專利權?

過去的報導:

定義「耗盡」:
"Whoever engages in one of these acts “without authority” from the patentee may face liability for patent infringement. §271(a). When a patentee sells one of its products, however, the patentee can no longer control that item through the patent laws—its patent rights are said to “exhaust.”"

Lexmark International, Inc.販售墨水匣時,提供消費者兩個選項:

(1)用全額支付購買墨水匣,這類墨水匣的使用並沒有任何限制(海外販售的墨水匣沒有回收計畫,限制不包括重製、回收等);
(2)通過Lexmark International, Inc.提供的回收計畫(return program),消費者可以優惠金額購買Lexmark墨水匣,簽署合約僅使用一次,且僅能讓Lexmark回收。

這個條約產生了「不用回收」的墨水匣

顯見這次訴訟被告產品有兩種:一是回收計畫中的墨水匣,這類墨水匣不能被重製與重售;二是不在回收計畫中的墨水匣,包括在海外販售而進口美國的墨水匣。

Lexmark主張沒有授權海外販售不在回收計畫中的墨水匣進口美國,因此,這類墨水匣已經侵犯權利。

被告有多個,僅Impression Products, Inc.提出上訴,被告認為原告專利權已經耗盡(主要針對海外墨水匣),所以應可自由重售,以及重製並進口美國。

此案在地方法院審理時,同意專利權對於美國國內回收計畫的墨水匣已經耗盡,卻對國外銷售再重製進口的墨水匣並未耗盡

案件進入CAFC,CAFC判決,對於專利權人國內販售墨水匣時,有權限制其售後行為,包括禁止重新販售,而專利權對售後的行為並未耗盡;對於國外販售的墨水匣,專利權也未耗盡,因此可以對再進口墨水匣的業者提告。

也就是,地方法院對於Lexmark的國內外販售權利耗盡的判斷是不同的,CAFC則認為國內外都未耗盡,這回到最高法院,最高法院則是認為專利權對於全部墨水匣都已經耗盡,但故事有前提。

因為Lexmark在美國國內販售時,提出「回收計畫(return program)」,最高法院認為,即便當中與消費者之間的約定明確表明使用條款,但並非表示Lexmark可以對選擇販售的項目(墨水匣)延續其專利權(對侵權者提告的權利),最高法院認為專利權因為「回收計畫」而對所有販售項目皆耗盡專利權,不論專利權人當初設定回收計畫的初衷為何。

"As a result, even if the restrictions in Lexmark’s contracts with its customers were clear and enforceable under contract law, they do not entitle Lexmark to retain patent rights in an item that it has elected to sell."

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其他資訊:
以下這些論述摘自最高法院判決的Syllabus,我覺得很重要,用我的理解來詮釋,各位還是以原文為主比較好。

其實這個決定涉及專利權的本質,如35 U.S. Code § 154(a),當專利權人販售一件專利產品,該產品應該已經不再受到專利權壟斷的限制,反之,此物品成為私人財產。

若專利權人制定合約來限制購買者「使用與再使用」的權利(right),確實可以在合約法(contract law)下限制購買者售後行為,但卻不一定能用在專利侵權訴訟。

"If the patentee negotiates a contract restricting the purchaser’s right to use or resell the item, it may be able to enforce that restriction as a matter of contract law, but may not do so through a patent infringement lawsuit."

「權利耗盡」原則為輔助專利法(特別法),防止專利權牴觸避免限制轉讓(alienation)的一般法律。"restraint on alienation"為著作權中的"禁止轉讓",對專利法來說應該是避免販售過的物品的轉手(或其他使用)。

"The exhaustion rule marks the point where patent rights yield to the common law principle against restraints on alienation."

專利法制定的意旨透過讓發明人可以確保其商業利益來「促進產業發展」,一旦專利權人販售一件專利產品時,已經獲得利益,專利法卻不是用來限制之後產品的使用。

"The Patent Act promotes innovation by allowing inventors to secure the financial rewards for their inventions. Once a patentee sells an item,it has secured that reward, and the patent laws provide no basis for restraining the use and enjoyment of the product."

如果允許專利權人對購買者有進一步限制,則可能牴觸避免限制轉讓的一般法律。

"Allowing further restrictions would run afoul of the “common law’s refusal to permit restraints on the alienation of chattels.”"

CAFC之所以作出專利權對海外販售再重製進口的墨水匣並未耗盡的結論,是基於「沒有受到專利權人的授權(without authority)」的行為,這是CAFC僅根據專利法與權利耗盡等過於狹隘的規則所作出的決定。

但是,如果專利權人透過明確限制購買者的權利來保留一些自己的權力(authority),專利權人或許可以通過專利侵權訴訟來主張這些限制。

"But if a patentee withholds some authority by expressly limiting the purchaser’s rights, the patentee may enforce that restriction through patent infringement lawsuits."

在美國國土以外經過授權的販售行為,如同在美國本土的販售行為,權利已經耗盡。

"An authorized sale outside the United States, just as one within the United States, exhausts all rights under the Patent Act."

參考著作權法(雖然仍有差異),在第一次銷售原則下,著作權人已經合法販售其著作給他人,也就表示已經失去限制購買者「販售或其他行為」的權力,包括國內外的行為。

"Under the first sale doctrine, when a copyright owner sells a lawfully made copy of its work, it loses the power to restrict the purchaser’s right “to sell or otherwise dispose of . . . that copy.”"

對於著作權,販售出去的作品在「第一次銷售原則」下已經耗盡權利似乎是比較「直覺」,而法院提醒,專利權對於販售的物品在國內外權利耗盡也應該是很直覺的。

專利法制定時,並未規定國內外權利耗盡的原則有不同的適用,反之,專利法並未打壓產品轉讓。

"Patent exhaustion, too, has its roots in the antipathy toward restraints on alienation, and nothing in the Patent Act shows that Congress intended to confine that principle to domestic sales."

專利權人聲稱權利耗盡原則並未適用海外銷售,且專利權人也非販售海外所有的產品,換句話說,專利權人並未從每一樣海外販售產品獲利。法院認為,專利權並未有域外效力(extraterritorial effect),並不支持Lexmark的主張,即便沒有獲利也是因為專利權人自己的決定,自己定價、如何販售,包括國內外銷售金額的差異,專利法並未保障利益多少。

這點也頗重要,與Lexmark案不同,在最高法院Boesch案例中,當專利權人無法控制其海外的銷售時,其海外銷售並未耗盡專利權。此確認一個前提是,本案只有專利權人(Lexmark)可以決定是否在海外銷售,如此也就耗盡其專利權。

"Instead, it held that a sale abroad does not exhaust a patentee’s rights when the patentee had nothing to do with the transaction. That just reaffirms the basic premise that only the patentee can decide whether to make a sale that exhausts its patent rights in an item."

(明確保留權利規則,"express-reservation rule")如此,最高法院的決定表示美國在權利耗盡原則中採取中立立場,除非專利權人明確表明保留權利,否則海外銷售將已經耗盡專利權。因為這個明確立場將影響海外購買者的期待,例如期待權利已經耗盡而可以自由地重新使用與重新銷售。

"Finally, the United States advocates what it views as a middle-ground position: that a foreign sale exhausts patent rights unless the patentee expressly reserves those rights.  This express-reservation rule is based on the idea that overseas buyers expect to be able to use and resell items freely, so exhaustion should be the presumption."

法院認為,其他法院長期以來過於看重產品販賣時雙方(專利權人與購買者)表明的權利義務,如專利權人的權利保留,反之,權利耗盡應該看的是避免專利法限制已經銷售物品的其他使用(禁止轉讓,restraint on alienation)。
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美國最高法院於5/30/2017作出了決定:

(1)專利權人Lexmark已經透過其「回收計畫」在初次販售墨水匣時耗盡其專利權,不論國內耗盡或國際耗盡。

"Lexmark cannot bring a patent infringement suit against Impression Products with respect to the Return Program cartridges sold in the United States because, once Lexmark sold those cartridges, it exhausted its right to control them through the patent laws."

(2)針對本次墨水匣議題,當Impression Products是自銷售者合法取得而進口美國,因為「海外銷售產品」如同在美國本土販售,已經耗盡所有專利權,包括製造、使用、販售與販售要約,本次專利權人Lexmark不能對Impression Products提出專利侵權告訴。


[相關法條]
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/35/154
35 U.S. Code § 154 - Contents and term of patent; provisional rights
(a)In General.—
(1)Contents.—
Every patent shall contain a short title of the invention and a grant to the patentee, his heirs or assigns, of the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States, and, if the invention is a process, of the right to exclude others from using, offering for sale or selling throughout the United States, or importing into the United States, products made by that process, referring to the specification for the particulars thereof.
(2)Term.—
Subject to the payment of fees under this title, such grant shall be for a term beginning on the date on which the patent issues and ending 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, if the application contains a specific reference to an earlier filed application or applications under section 120, 121, 365(c), or 386(c), from the date on which the earliest such application was filed.
(3)Priority.—
Priority under section 119, 365(a), 365(b), 386(a), or 386(b) shall not be taken into account in determining the term of a patent.
(4)Specification and drawing.—
A copy of the specification and drawing shall be annexed to the patent and be a part of such patent.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/35/271

35 U.S. Code § 271 - Infringement of patent

(a)
Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.


my two cents:
海外銷售是否已經耗盡專利權,這仍有前提,本案決定並非一體適用。

雖然我沒有判斷能力,卻認為不能僅看其結論就推論合理不合理,本案在美國最高法院的「制高點」來看全局,根據其中邏輯來看,確實有道理,反倒認為CAFC僅以專利權與耗盡原則等作為預設立場來看,就會以專利權人是否授權的角度來看。

此案還有個點,就是銷售者與消費者之間的合約,問題就出在一個企業回收計畫(Return Program)的良心,國內外墨水匣販售模式有差異,產生了對比,否則這次議題應該不見得這麼"有意義"。這個回收計畫使得Lexmark專利權在「全額販售的墨水匣」已經耗盡,甚至"波及"優惠方案購買的墨水匣(updated on June 2, 2017),不論國內或國際耗盡。

有個問題是,老實說,墨水匣重製與填充確實會影響原專利權人的利益,這是個議題,但是確實也如最高法院所說,這是專利權人/製造者/銷售者的決定,如Lexmark決定國內有回收計畫,國外為全額銷售等,這個利益折損恐非專利法可以解決。

最高法院決定:
https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1189_ebfj.pdf
(備份:https://app.box.com/s/nuojzonc8ofgff31mbjo1hofigc9mxoe

參考資料:
http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/impression-products-inc-v-lexmark-international-inc/(這個BLOG記載了此案歷史資訊)

著作權的權利耗盡討論 - Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Sup. Crt. 2013)http://enpan.blogspot.tw/2017/03/kirtsaeng-v-john-wiley-sons-inc-sup-crt.html)(著作權第一次銷售原則, updated on June 3, 2017

Ron

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