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Supreme Court to hear copyright, employment discrimination cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in four cases. In Costco v. Omega [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether the first-sale doctrine [17 USC § 109(a)], which provides that the owner of any particular copy "lawfully made under this title" may resell that good without the authority of the copyright holder, applies to imported goods manufactured abroad. Swiss watchmaker Omega [corporate website] manufactures watches in Switzerland and then sells them to authorized distributors overseas. Watches were purchased by third parties and eventually sold to Costco [corporate website], which sold them to US consumers without authorization from Omega. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the first-sale doctrine does not apply to imported goods.

In Staub v. Proctor Hospital [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will consider in what circumstances an employer may be held liable based on the unlawful intent of officials who caused or influenced but did not make the ultimate employment decision. Vincent Staub sued his former employer under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) [text] for wrongful termination. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the unlawful intent of the officials who allegedly brought about Staub's dismissal could not be attributed to the employer.

In United States v. Tohono O'odham Nation [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether 28 USC § 1500 [text] deprives the Court of Federal Claims (CFC) [official website] of jurisdiction over a claim seeking monetary relief for the government's alleged violation of fiduciary obligations if the plaintiff has another suit pending in federal district court based on substantially the same operative facts, especially when the plaintiff seeks monetary relief or other overlapping relief in the two suits. 28 USC § 1500 provides that the CFC lacks jurisdiction over "any claim for or in respect to which the plaintiff has any suit or process against the United States" or its agents "pending in any other court." The Tohono O'odham Nation filed a complaint against the US in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, and, one day later, it filed a similar complaint against the US in the CFC. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed [opinion, PDF] the CFC's dismissal of the case, concluding "that the Nation's complaint in the Court of Federal Claims seeks relief that is different from the relief sought in its earlier-filed district court action."

In Ransom v. MBNA [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will consider whether, in calculating the debtor's "projected disposable income" during the plan period, the bankruptcy court may allow an ownership cost deduction for vehicles only if the debtor is actually making payments on the vehicles. The Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the bankruptcy court may not allow such deductions.

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