Used Goods

Good news and potentially bad news

Have you heard about ecoATM?  It’s a really cool way to dispose of old cell phones or MP3 players and get some cash or donate to charity.

You put your device into an ATM-like machine which scans it, identifies it and gives you a range of prices that it will pay for the device based upon its condiditon.  If you like the prices, the machine asks that you insert a cable into the device so that it can evaluate the condition.  After a few moments a cash offer appears on the machine’s screen.  If you accept, it dispenses cash after giving you the option to donate a portion to a charity.  If you don’t accept, you get the device back.

Yesterday I took a Blackberry 9700 with a broken screen and three Palm Treos that I haven’t used for years to the machine at the Monmouth Mall.  The machine is outside of Modell’s and Boscov’s at the southern end of the mall.   There were two young women using the machine when I got there and several others watching the process.  I was quite surprised when the machine offered the young women $41 for the used phone.  I figured $5 or $10 would be the most offered.   I got $39 for the broken Blackberry and $1 each for the Palms.

Such transactions may become illegal by this time next year. Selling your car, furniture, books, art or clothes might also be illegal if you don’t get the permission of or pay a vig to the manufacturer of the product, depending on the outcome of a case the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons  is a case involving Supap Kirtsaeng, a Thai man who came to the United States in 1997 to study at Cornell and stepped into the American Dream in the bookstore.  He noticed that the textbooks he was required to buy  cost a great deal more at Cornell’s bookstore than he could buy them for back home in Thailand.  He bought his books in Thailand.  He also bought enough books in Thailand, published by Wiley & Sons, to resell to his classmates and pocket $1.2 million in the process.

Wiley sued for copyright infringement, arguing that the first sale doctrine does not apply to goods first sold outside of the United States.  A jury agreed with Wiley and awarded the publisher $600,000.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict and now the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case on October 29.

It seems to defy logic and fairness that the manufacturer of a product would retain property rights after the valid sale of their product, regardless of where the sale took place.  However, SCOTUS was divided on this issue 4-4 in a 2010 case involving Costco and Swiss watch maker Omega.  Justice Kagen recused herself from the Costco/Omega case but will participate in Kirtsaeng v Wiley.

Don’t count on SCOTUS making sense.  We’ve seen them declare that women have the right to declare that embryos and fetuses are trespassers invading their privacy, the punishment for such trespass being death,  and that penalties are really taxes, even when Congress and the President says they are not taxes.

Posted: October 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: SCOTUS, U.S. Supreme Court | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Used Goods

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