John Wiley & Sons sued Supap Kirtsaeng for infringing its distribution and importation rights of its textbooks manufactured abroad (Kirtsaeng I). Kirtsaeng’s relatives purchased these textbooks in Thailand and Kirtsaeng resold them in the United States. The Supreme Court held that the first sale doctrine was not restricted to copies made in the United States and that the doctrine applied as long as the copy was lawfully made under the Copyright Act. Thus, Kirtsaeng’s legal purchase of the textbooks purchased in his home country invoked the first sale doctrine, terminated John Wiley & Sons’ distribution rights in the textbooks, and allowed Kirtsaeng to continue importing these books.
The case was appealed again to the Supreme Court (Kirtsaeng II) with the suit focusing on which factors a district court can consider and give substantial weight to when determining attorney’s fees under 17 U.S.C. §505. The Supreme Court held that district courts should give substantial weight to the objective reasonableness of the losing party’s position, but should also consider other factors such as frivolousness, motivation, and objective unreasonableness.