Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Intellectual Property Exhaustion and Parallel Imports

Research Handbook on Intellectual Property Exhaustion and Parallel Imports

Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series

Edited by Irene Calboli and Edward Lee

From the Americas to the European Union, Asia-Pacific and Africa, countries around the world are facing increased pressure to clarify the application of intellectual property exhaustion. This wide-ranging Research Handbook explores the questions that pose themselves as a result. Should exhaustion apply at the national, regional, or international level? Should parallel imports be considered lawful imports? Should copyright, patent, and trademark laws follow the same regime? Should countries attempt to harmonize their approaches? To what extent should living matters and self-replicating technologies be subject to the principle of exhaustion? To what extent have the rise of digital goods and the “Internet of things” redefined the concept of exhaustion in cyberspace? The Handbook offers insights to the challenges surrounding these questions and highlights how one answer does not fit all.

Chapter 3: Exhaustion and personal property servitudes

Molly Shaffer Van Houweling

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law, international economic law, trade law


IP owners can control how other people use objects in their lawful possession—control that would otherwise be enforced (if at all) through generally applicable bodies of contract, property, and commercial law. Exhaustion can thus properly be understood, at least in part, as helping to define the boundary between IP and these other areas of law. This boundary notion might suggest a sharp distinction between IP and the laws on the other side of the exhaustion line.1 But courts and commentators have long suggested that the exhaustion doctrine in fact owes its origins to these bodies of law. Specifically, the argument goes that exhaustion is a version of a generally applicable common law prohibition on restrictions that run with objects other than land, that is, “personal property servitudes.” This chapter revisits that claim in light of recent jurisprudence and scholarship.

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