COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION v. OMEGA, S.A.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
08-1423
Petitioner 
Costco Wholesale Corporation
Respondent 
Omega, S.A.
Decided By 
Advocates
(for the petitioner)
(for the respondent)
(Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Watchmaker Omega S.A. sued Costco Wholesale Corp. when it bought a shipment of the Swiss-made watches from another importer and sold them for below Omega's suggested retail price. Omega contends that Costco's sale infringes on their copyright of the Omega logo on the back face of the watch. Meanwhile, Costco argues that Omega is precluded from bringing a copyright action after a sale due to the Doctrine of Exhaustion, or "first sale" rule, under which certain rights are "exhausted" after a sale of the copyrighted good.

A judge on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California backed Costco, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the first-sale doctrine did not apply to imported goods manufactured abroad.

Question 

Under the first-sale doctrine of copyright law, someone who purchases a copyrighted work (like a book) can later sell the work to someone else without the permission of the copyright holder (the book's author). Does the "first- sale doctrine" apply to imported works manufactured abroad?

Conclusion 
Decision: 4 votes for Omega, S.A., 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Copyright Act

The Court deadlocked 4-4, which means that the appeals court ruling against Costco stays in place, though the case sets no new high court precedent because it ended in a tie. The tie was possible because Justice Elena Kagan recused herself in the case.

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COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION v. OMEGA, S.A.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_08_1423>.
COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION v. OMEGA, S.A., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_08_1423 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION v. OMEGA, S.A.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_08_1423.