PROPERTY RIGHTS

Civil Forfeiture

Overview

Civil forfeiture occurs when the government seizes property under suspicion of its involvement in illegal activity. Such a proceeding is conducted in rem, or against the property itself, rather than in personam, or against the owner of the property; by contrast, criminal forfeiture is an in personam proceeding. For this reason, civil forfeiture case names often appear strange, such as United States v. Eight Rhodesian Stone Statues,

Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Omega, S.A.

Issues 

If a United States corporation resold foreign-manufactured goods obtained through a third party importer, may the reselling United States corporation defend on the grounds that the first sale doctrine applies and thus they are not liable for copyright infringement after the first sale of the goods?

 

Costco Wholesale Corporation sold watches manufactured in Switzerland by Omega S.A. without Omega’s prior authorization. Omega sued under the Copyright Act, claiming the sale of the watches was an infringement of their United States copyright. Costco defended on the grounds of the first sale doctrine, which currently provides a defense for reselling goods manufactured in the United States that are resold by retailers or distributors. Costco claims that the doctrine applies to foreign-manufactured goods as well. The district court granted Costco’s motion for summary judgment, but the Ninth Circuit reversed the ruling. The Supreme Court must now decide whether the  first sale  doctrine applies to goods manufactured abroad. The Court’s decision will influence copyright law, property rights, and the ability of retailers to resell goods.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the Ninth Circuit correctly held that the first sale doctrine does not apply to imported goods manufactured abroad.

Omega is a corporation that manufactures high-end watches in Switzerland. See Omega v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, 541 F.3d 982, 983 (9th Cir.

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