Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Use of Copyright Law to Fight the Import of Gray Market Goods Goes to US Supreme Court
Courts ruled long ago that copyright law could not be used to protect goods manufactured in the US, sold abroad and reimported to the US outside normal distribution channels. This is because of the "first-sale doctrine" which says that copyright holders can only profit from the original sale of a product. Now the question is whether the first-sale doctrine applies to goods manufactured outside the US. The Ninth Circuit has held that it does not. The Supreme Court has granted certiorari on the issue. The bottom line is that this case pits manufacturers of brand label goods against consumer advocates and discount retailers. In other words, it may be time to go to Costco and load up.