Justices restrict some patent owners’ rights

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that companies give up their patent rights when they sell an item, putting new limits on businesses’ ability to prevent their products from being resold at a discount.

The ruling is a defeat for Lexmark printer manufacturer, which was trying to stop refurbished versions of its printer cartridges from undercutting U.S. sales. The decision was 8-0 in some respects and 7-1 in others.

In the ruling, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said, “Extending the patent rights beyond the first sale would clog the channels of commerce, with little benefit from the extra control that the patentees retain.”

The biotechnology, drug and agricultural industries backed Lexmark in the dispute, calling for broad patent rights.

On the other side were major tech companies, including Alphabet’s Google and Intel, as well as sellers of refurbished auto parts and medical devices.

The dispute involved inkjet cartridges refilled and sold by Impression Products. Lexmark said Impression was infringing its patents. Impression said Lexmark had been paid for the use of its inventions and had exhausted its rights.

— Bloomberg News

Study: Emergency room costs misjudged

Less than half of doctors and nurses working in emergency rooms know how much it costs to treat some of the conditions they see most often, a recent U.S. study suggests.

In a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers asked 441 emergency medicine clinicians to estimate the cost of care for three common scenarios: a 35-year old woman with abdominal pain, a 57-year old man with labored breathing and a 7-year old boy with a sore throat. Each case included a medical history, results from physical exams and lab tests, as well as a rundown of any treatments provided.

Then, researchers asked participants to choose one of four price ranges for each scenario: less than $2,000; $2,001 to $4,000; $4,001 to $6,000 or $6,001 to $8,000.

Just 32 percent of respondents got the right price range for the man with labored breathing, which cost $2,423. Only 40 percent picked the correct price range for the child with a sore throat, at $596, and 43 percent of participants chose the right price range for the case of the woman with abdominal pain, at $4,713.

“Medical decisions should never be made based only on the cost associated with them,” lead study author Kevin Hoffman said. “However, when there is more than one way to effectively treat a patient, the more cost-efficient choice should be chosen.”

— Reuters

Also in Business

Goldman Sachs faces a probe by Venezuela’s opposition leaders after buying bonds issued in 2014 by the state oil company, a purchase some lawmakers said helps President Nicolás Maduro as he grapples with accusations of human rights violations. Goldman’s asset-management arm bought the securities, sold by Petroleos de Venezuela, through a broker and had no interaction with the government, the firm said in a statement. Venezuela’s opposition says the purchase is an infusion of cash to the government.

Americans increased their spending in April at the fastest pace in four months. Consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in April after a 0.3 percent rise in March, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Incomes also rose 0.4 percent, double the 0.2 percent March increase. The rise in spending was led by a 0.9 percent rise in purchases of long-lasting durable goods, reflecting a rebound in demand for autos. Spending on nondurable goods such as clothing rose 0.6 percent.

Amazon, the Internet goliath that revolutionized the way consumers shop, hit a new milestone on Tuesday. Its stock surpassed the $1,000 mark for the first time. That put Amazon’s market value at about $478 billion, double that of Walmart, the world’s biggest traditional retailer. A $1,000 investment on Amazon’s first day of trading in 1997 would be worth more than $500,000. (Amazon chief executive Jeffery P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Churchill Downs has moved its online wagering operations from Silicon Valley to its Kentucky home town, where the Kentucky Derby is run. A decade ago, when Churchill was building its TwinSpires online wagering business, operations were based in California to tap into the region’s high-tech prowess. Chief executive Bill Carstanjen said Tuesday that Churchill is confident it can fill those high-tech skills in Louisville.

— From news reports

Coming today

10 a.m.: National Association of Realtors releases pending home sales index for April.

2 p.m.: Federal Reserve releases its “beige book.”