As this edition of RL Magazine was being assembled, we received the news that the Supreme Court had decided in the Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International Inc. case that affects everyone in the reverse logistics industry. The Supreme Court issued a ruling affirming your right to own the things you buy, and therefore potentially making changes to them. The ruling prevents patent owners from controlling goods after sale and interfering with your right to resell, tinker with, and understand the things you own. This decision overturned a Federal Circuit ruling, which had sided with manufacturers’ rights to control the use or reuse of their products after their sale. There are many implications from this ruling that will affect the aftermarket for returned goods and refurbishers of those products and may take years to settle.
This decision follows on the heels of recent state laws in the “right to repair” area, which initially were related to automotive repair and modification shops. The repair industry, including digital shops for high tech products, were losing work as manufacturers forced consumers to go to their “authorized” dealers only for any after sale support. In theory, this now opens the door for mechanics and repair techs to do more work on products that previously were “unrepairable” by independent servicers who may or may not be qualified. This also opens a door to further need for a certification process for those in the reverse logistics industry. Consumers buying the value of secondary market products should focus on who is making them and what the warranty support will be.
There are usually multiple sides to every decision, and one side for manufacturers is that product costs may increase for consumers. Manufacturers price products such as printers and other items based on a continued revenue after the sale from consumers for “authorized” cartridges at a certain price point. The refurbished versions cost less but do not provide revenue back to the manufacturers, and their budgets will be revised with price increases to offset the lost revenue. Another concern may be that the used PC or printer you buy is no longer as the manufacturer designed and built it.
As I mentioned, some of this ruling is connected to the auto industry, which has a long history of modifications to cars after the sale. Examples such as special wheels, high performance (i.e. loud) mufflers and shocks, among many others. As members of the Reverse Logistics Association, we will keep you informed about these rulings and their impacts (watch for more news on RLA.org). We also expect to bring you future stories about “souped-up” printers, PC’s, audio and video systems, etc.