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Supreme Court splits on copyright protections for imported goods

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday divided 4-4 [opinion, PDF] in Costco Wholesale Corp v. Omega, SA [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] on the issue of copyright protections for imported goods. The case presented the question of 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 ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the first-sale doctrine does not apply to imported goods. The 4-4 split, with Justice Elena Kagan recused, means that the Ninth Circuit's decision is affirmed, but that the ruling does not set precedent.

Also Monday, the court ruled [order list, PDF] that federal courts lack jurisdiction to hear a challenge to the size of the US House of Representatives [official website]. The court vacated a ruling by the US District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi [official website] and remanded with orders to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction.

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