Today, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in five cases of interest to the business community:

Patent Act—Exhaustion

Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., No. 15-1189

The doctrine of patent exhaustion provides that, after the first authorized sale of a patented article, the purchaser can use, repair, or resell the article without infringing the patent. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has created two exceptions to the exhaustion doctrine, holding that (1) a patentee can preserve its rights in a patented article by selling it subject to explicit use or resale restrictions (and therefore sue a downstream purchaser or user for patent infringement if those restrictions were violated), and (2) the sale of a patented article abroad never exhausts the patentee's U.S. patent rights in that article. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review these two exceptions to the exhaustion doctrine. Mayer Brown represents petitioner Impression Products.

Hague Service Convention—International Service of Process

Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon, No. 16-254

The Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters—to which the United States is a party—permits service of process from one member state to another without the use of diplomatic channels. Article 10 provides in pertinent part that the Convention "shall not interfere with ... the freedom to send judicial documents, by postal channels, directly to persons abroad," or with "the freedom ... to effect service of judicial documents directly through the judicial officers, officials or other competent persons of the State of destination." (Emphasis added.) The Texas Court of Appeals held that the term "send" in Article 10 does not include "service of process," and that the petitioner had thus failed to effect proper service of process on the respondent in Canada using certified mail. The Texas Supreme Court declined to review that decision. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the Convention authorizes international service of process by mail.

ERISA—Church Plans

Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton, No. 16-74
St. Peter's Healthcare System v. Kaplan, No. 16-86
Dignity Health v. Rollins, No. 16-258

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA") governs employers that offer pension and other benefits to their employees. However, "church plans" are exempt from ERISA. The United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits have held that ERISA's church-plan exemption applies only if a church "established" the plan. These decisions conflict with those of other federal courts and agencies that have held that the exemption applies to otherwise qualifying church-affiliated organizations such as non-profit religious hospitals, orphanages, schools, day-care centers and homes for the elderly. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in three consolidated cases to decide whether the exemption applies so long as a pension plan is maintained by an otherwise qualifying church-affiliated organization, or whether the exemption applies only if, in addition, a church initially established the plan.

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