IP: Copyrights used to stop grey market goods—the good and the bad

Elements protected by copyright law should be meaningful to the product.

What this means

Companies that wish to sell goods at different price points or of varying quality in discrete national markets should:

Cases applying the first sale doctrine

In Quality King Distributors, Inc. v. L’anza Research International, the Supreme Court held that, when goods were manufactured in the U.S. but sold abroad, the First Sale Doctrine prevented copyright holders from barring re-importation of goods designated for discrete foreign markets. In other words, goods made in the U.S. and sold in Japan could come back. Once U.S. copyright protection was exhausted on a particular item, it could be transferred as desired by the owner of that item.


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Douglas R. Wolf

Doug Wolf is a shareholder in Wolf Greenfield's Trademark and Copyright Group. He practices primarily in the areas of trademark prosecution and litigation, patent...

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Anderson Duff

Anderson Duff is an associate in Wolf Greenfield's Trademark and Copyright Group. He specializes in prosecution and litigation, including proceedings before the Trademark Trial and...

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