Supreme Court Applies “First Sale” Doctrine to Foreign-Made Copyrighted Goods

The Supreme Court ruled in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. that copyright law does not prohibit the unauthorized importation and sale of copyrighted goods manufactured outside the United States. This decision, which interprets the “first sale” doctrine, has important implications across a number of industries, including for:

- US copyright owners who wish to segment the geographic markets in which they sell their products

- Manufacturers, distributors, and consumers of products that contain copyrighted software and packaging

- Retailers, importers and resellers of copyrighted goods

- Institutions like art museums that rely on the “first sale” doctrine to make copyrighted works available to the public

The Kirtsaeng decision may also have implications for the analogous patent law doctrine of exhaustion.

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