The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in the case of Dolby Systems, Inc. v. Christenson, focuses primarily on the issue of which party bears the initial burden of proof with regard to a “first sale” defense in a copyright infringement action. As the reader will see, however, this case really provides a cautionary tale as to the consequences a party may face when it plays games during discovery.
Adobe, a software publisher and the copyright holder for titles such as the “Photoshop” series sued Christenson in October 2009 alleging copyright and trademark infringement. (This column will not address the trademark issues.) Christenson ran a website on which he “re-sells” Adobe software, which he purchases from third party distributors apparently without Adobe’s authorization. Adobe claimed that it does not sell its software, but merely licenses them and that Christenson infringed on its copyrights when he “re-sold” its titles. Christenson claimed that his activities were protected under the First Sale Doctrine, claiming that he lawfully purchased the software from third parties, who had also “purchased” the software from Adobe.
Adobe’s lawsuit against Christenson was apparently quite contentious. The Ninth Circuit observed that the lower court proceedings were “punctuated by discovery disputes, sanctions and multiple rulings on the admissibility and exclusion of evidence.” Both parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The District Court, after excluding certain evidence offered by Adobe because it had not been produced during discovery, granted summary judgment in Christenson’s favor as to the copyright infringement claim after recognizing that the First Sale Defense applied. Adobe appealed this finding to the Ninth Circuit.Continue Reading Copyright Infringement and the First Sale Defense