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Supreme Court to Review Potential Limitations of First-Sale Doctrine

The United States Supreme Court will soon determine whether the first-sale doctrine applies to imported goods.

September 15, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ — The highest court in the land has decided to hear a case that will help clarify how the first-sale doctrine applies to international trade. This decision will then, in turn, impact future intellectual property disputes affected by the doctrine. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case this October and will likely issue a ruling in early 2013.

The First-Sale Doctrine

The first-sale doctrine allows the owner of a lawfully made copy of a trademarked or copyrighted good to sell or dispose of that copy without obtaining the permission of the copyright owner. For example, a mother who purchases a DVD of a popular children’s movie can sell that DVD at a yard sale a few years later without the permission of whoever owns the copyright.

The main question the Supreme Court will consider is whether or not the first-sale doctrine applies to American goods assembled and purchased abroad and imported into the United States for sale. In other words, could the same mother ask her family abroad to purchase the same DVD and send it to the U.S., and then turn around and sell it in the American market?

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