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Exhaustion doctrine

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U.S. patent law Edit

Under the exhaustion doctrine (also called the first sale doctrine and patent exhaustion), the first unrestricted sale of a patented item exhausts the patentee's control over that particular item. It generally is asserted as an affirmative defense to charges of patent infringement, but less commonly is asserted affirmatively in a declaratory judgment action. It is closely related to (and sometimes conflated with) the doctrine of implied license, and is often asserted in conjunction with claims of equitable estoppel or legal estoppel.

The concept often arises in the context of parallel imports, such that if a right becomes "exhausted" in one area or jurisdiction, an patent owner may not be able to enforce its rights in another jurisdiction.


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