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At first blush, Costco Wholesale Corp v. Omega, S.A., which the U.S. Supreme Court last week agreed to hear, doesn't involve the kind of cutting-edge issues that copyright lawyers usually grapple with in the digital age. So why is the Court willing to consider a dispute between a company that makes fancy watches and a company that imports and resells them? It sounds like the kind of lawsuit that should have been resolved 200 years ago.
What's at stake in these disputes is the ability of resellers large (Costco) and small (Liu) to offer legitimate, non-pirated versions of copyrighted goods to U.S. consumers at prices that undercut those charged by the copyright holders—something that's possible thanks to the robust secondary markets provided by major Internet retailers such as eBay and Amazon.