Not long ago, the US Supreme Court divided 4-4 in Costco Wholesale Corporation vs. Omega, a Swiss watchmaker, on the issue of copyright protections for imported goods.
The question: does the “First Sale Doctrine*” apply to imported goods manufactured abroad?.
Omega makes watches in Switzerland then sells them to authorized distributors around the world. Watches bought by some of these distributors were eventually sold to Costco, which sold them to US consumers without authorization from Omega.
In a 4-4 split, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the First Sale Doctrine does not apply to imported goods. (The split means that the court’s decision is affirmed, but that the ruling does not set precedent.)
This means we can still use the Customs Branch to stop importation of copies of sculptures, books, CD’s, DVD’s, etc. for which we have obtained copyright certificates in the US.
The smart creative person knows that copyright is automatic, basically upon creation of your work. The smarter creative person knows that if you obtain a legal Copyright Certificate up front – before any infringement takes place — you have obtained cheap, one-payment insurance that will stop any infringing action without delay.
If you wait until you actually discover that someone has been copying your work and only then hurry to get your Copyright Certificate — which could take weeks or months — before you can file suit, the knock-off artist may have stolen your market!
A patent attorney like Barb Luther is the best friend you can have in the creative process!