Troubling Court Ruling: Company Not Allowed To Resell Radar Detectors Online

from the no-first-sale dept

Over the years, we've had plenty of stories about companies trying to limit the ability of resellers to sell their products online, with companies claiming that reselling shampoo or cosmetics on eBay is somehow illegal because of a contract the wholesaler made with its own resellers. Usually these lawsuits don't get very far. Whatever agreement the wholesaler and the reseller had, the eventual seller online usually wasn't a party to those agreements and isn't bound by them -- and (reasonably) the courts recognize that you shouldn't be barred from reselling a product you legally purchased (that whole first sale thing).

However, there are some exceptions, and Eric Goldman points us to the latest one. A reseller of radar detectors has effectively been barred from selling a certain brand on eBay, claiming that it was trademark infringement. But what about those first sale rights? Well, apparently this case gets around them by claiming that the product being resold by this company Midwest Inventory Distribution is a different product, because it doesn't come with the same warranty (Midwest offers its own warranty and the original company, Beltronics, refuses to honor warranties on these resold radar detectors). The court also seemed to have problems with the fact that Midwest didn't properly "disclose" this information, even though every auction stated clearly that Midwest offered its own warranty and Beltronics wouldn't provide any warranty coverage.

As Goldman notes, this seems based on some questionable theories, and conceivably could allow companies to skirt around first sale rules, by claiming that anyone reselling their products online are engaging in trademark infringement, because the "warranties" on the products are different -- even if the products themselves are really identical. As Goldman writes:
The net result then is that eBay buyers willing to pay a discount for an identical radar detector but with only Midwest's warranty instead of Beltronics' won't get that choice. Instead, they get the pleasure of buying at the minimum resale price set by Beltronics.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    inc, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 3:03am

    good ol' anti-competition tatics

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous of Course, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 4:49am

    One lost sale

    That's too bad, they make a good product. I was thinking of buying a Beltronics STI Driver. Time to take a closer look at their competitors.

     

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    identicon
    Greg, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 6:15am

    spelling nazi

    As Goldman rights:


    maybe it should be "As Goldman writes:"

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Matt, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 6:22am

    don't let your right hand know what your left is writing

    "As Goldman rights:"
    S/B
    As Goldman writes:


    -Fixed that for you.

     

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  •  
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    James (profile), Apr 24th, 2009 @ 6:27am

    They need to focus on the fact that the ebayer is selling a product that is ilegal in some states and shut them down that way. I know of few ebayers that sell such "ilegal in some states " items with a wink and a nod, "check local laws before buying...wink,wink..."

     

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      identicon
      nasch, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 9:53am

      Re:

      The original manufacturer probably does not want to draw attention to that aspect of their product.

       

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      •  
        icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), Apr 24th, 2009 @ 1:29pm

        Re: Re:

        You mean the aspect where some states overstep their authority and write laws against a device that only receives RF transmissions that are aimed at you?

        I'm not an expert on this subject, but don't Americans have the right to receive any radio broadcast over their airwaves? I understand we can't 'transmit', because we would have tragedy of the commons and unmitigated interference, but we CAN receive, no?

        Either way, we should be allowed to receive, no matter what your state...and aren't there only two states that don't allow detectors? DE and...

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2009 @ 8:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm not an expert on this subject, but don't Americans have the right to receive any radio broadcast over their airwaves?

          Oh no, not at all. The term "public airwaves" is a misnomer used to keep the people thinking that such a thing still exists.

           

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    •  
      identicon
      James, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

      Re: My Name is James

      My Real Name is James and I am on the interent, how dare you use my name, don't you know that should be illegal. What if someone thought I was you, then my name might not have the same value as it had before.Do you offer the same warantee on your name that I do on mine? I hope no one posts this comment on another site where someone else uses my name too, why this could get complicated.

      The real James

       

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    identicon
    Chris, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 6:38am

    Useless product anyways

    Radar detectors are useless anyways, more times than not its too late, then when they see a radar detector, your getting a ticket by default, no chance of a warning.

    But besides that, It is shameful the way some companies go about this nonsense. Tell me, did BELL not move a unit? no matter who is selling it at what price? At some point, bell sold that unit, and it is revenue for them, this just goes to show why when companies start losing money and complaining about a decrease in sales, it is usually their own fault...

    I had a similar problem back when i sold used security equipment on ebay, and a certain manufacturer kept having my auctions pulled for a certain DVR telling me that I did not have the right to sell their units used, that the software on the units was non transferable and that even though i acquired the nits legally, they could not be sold with their software intact. The license for the software however, was on a sticker, on the unit. I eventually won that argument, but not after a battle. It is a shame, the state of GREED among companies these days.

     

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      icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), Apr 24th, 2009 @ 1:33pm

      Re: Useless product anyways

      They are not useless. You may be judging based on a bad detector?

      Many give over a mile of warning of certain types of speed traps. However, in other types of speed traps (most notably laser) they can be innefective. A certain amount of luck is also at play.

      So let's say that a good radar detector, in the car of someone who is familiar with interpreting the tweets and chirps, is very effective on some large portion of speed trap. That's a long way from "useless". They got my $250.

       

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      identicon
      John Doe, May 1st, 2009 @ 11:56am

      Re: Useless product anyways

      Chris wrote:

      "Radar detectors are useless anyways, more times than not its too late, then when they see a radar detector, your getting a ticket by default, no chance of a warning."

      Mine's pretty useful. It saved me yesterday. Twice.

      But you're partially right, in that in the case of Instant On (IO) radar (where the cop turns the radar gun on the moment he aims at you), if you don't get any warning from cars ahead of you being tagged with IO, when you here the full tone warning, it's too late - he just nailed you.

      If one has a good detector (like a Valentine One), the user usually gets warnings from the cars a half mile to a mile (or more) in front of him, as they each get hit with Instant On. I've detected Ka Band radar at 3.4 miles with my V1 - plenty of time to react.

      The one time people goof up and count on their radar detector when they shouldn't, is in the middle of the night on a nice, open, deserted highway. They go banzaiing along at triple digit speeds, and are completely vulnerable to Instant On radar. And the Trooper just sits there in the median, IOing each car as they come by every 10 minutes or so at 2am - and pretty soon, he's got his big score for the night.

      And Laser is a problem as well - the laser beam is only about 18" wide at 300 Yards - so when the cop aims it at the front license plate or headlight, the radar detector doesn't get any signal and doesn't even alert - and even if it did, it only alerts you to the fact that you are about to be pulled over. The Valentine One has at least a 50/50 chance against laser - unlike other detectors, it can detect a bounced or difuse laser signal - so you've got a chance of it detecting the car in front of you down the road being measured.

      And yes, it is a shame the companies seem to be getting greedier and greedier.

      Best wishes,

      Someone who knows the business

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Katsu999, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 7:01am

    Illegal in certain States

    They may be 'Illegal' in some states, but is that 'Illegal to Sell/Buy', or ' Illegal to Use'?
    Usually it is the Usage that is illegal, not the Selling (though like Prostitution, the emphasis can change randomly), but that may also differ between states.
    Sounds like the company persuaded a sympathetic Judge to overlook a few basic Rules of Law and Rights.
    Far from 'Shutting them down' as James suggests, (since they cannot be selling illegally on the Net if there are States where they _are_ Legal, and if they gave a fair warning like "Not for use in certain States"), surely a retrial with an 'honest' Judge would suffice?

     

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    identicon
    R.M., Apr 24th, 2009 @ 7:58am

    Not Useless

    Check out the Radar/Laser Detector/Scrambler from Rocky Mountain Radar. I've been using one for 3 years, and it's saved my bacon many times. Great range, immediate response for "instant on" radar, and with the scrambling, it's like having a "cloaking device" for the car. I've often just kept on cruising at speed even when the alert is sounding, knowing they couldn't clock me unless they paced me or had a plane in the air.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    Their radar detectors suck...

    ... if you want on that actually works, get a Valentine One. I've tried them all, and really only the Valentine works as advertised....

     

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    •  
      identicon
      TPBer, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 10:40am

      Re: Their radar detectors suck...

      The Valentine is the best and does work, they also they have a trade in program, nobody else does that.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2009 @ 8:36am

        Re: Re: Their radar detectors suck...

        The Valentine is the best and does work, they also they have a trade in program, nobody else does that.

        Huh? My local pawn shop has a trade-in program for all brands.

         

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    •  
      icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), Apr 24th, 2009 @ 2:37pm

      Re: Their radar detectors suck...

      The Valentine is great, and some aspects of it are still at the head of the pack (indicating if the radar is in front or behind), but it is an old design, and has not taken advantage of technology improvements and common feature innovations over the past 10 years.

      In its day, it was #1 with a bullet. Now, it is overpriced for what you get, and not the best available. The reviewer here mentions that in 2000, he rated it the top device, but now it is outshone:
      http://radartest.com/article.asp?articleID=100542

      But Valentine is a lot like Apple for having a host of over-enthusiastic fanboys. Meanwhile, it is the tech world equivalent of raving about your Palm V in 2009. Awesome device, for sure, but sooooo 2000.

      Today, the best Detectors include GPS, so that they can learn where false alarms occur, and not alarm the next time. Using web databases and GPS, they can be updated as to where photo radar and red light cameras are, and alert you to these even if no radar is currently detected. Imagine no false alarms, and warnings for cameras! These blow away the Valentie for about the same $.

      Or you can get lower-model detectors for the $2-300 range that are as good as the Valentine for less money.

      Check out www.RadarTest.com. It's not the best looking site, and is not complete. But it does appear to me to be a fair and impartial review site, run by guys who know what they're doing. They apply a scientific method to test Detectors head to head in real conditions.

      I have no relationship to that site, other than reading most of it one Saturday afternoon.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 9:40pm

    It's also illegal to buy, sell, own, possess sex toys in at least one state.

    I think in NY it is illegal to shoot rabbits from a streetcar

     

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  •  
    identicon
    John Doe, May 1st, 2009 @ 11:44am

    I wasn't surprised to see it was Beltronics that brought on this lawsuit. They have the most unethical way of trying to eliminate fair competition I've ever seen. They set their prices extremely high and then force their dealers to adhere to their full retail price, and if the dealer doesn't do that, the dealer gets the boot.

    By the way, dealer cost on the $339 Bel RX-65 is only $190. But because Bel asks $339 on their website, that's what they force their dealers to sell at.

    Furthermore, in Europe, there is a Bel model where all they do is change the color of the PACKING BOX the unit comes in, and then they add about 50% to the price, claiming it is a special Europe only model! Another European model is a little different (the RX-65 Euro). It just has different software in it - and the price is almost tripled. Dealer cost on a RX65 is about $250, but the retail price (converted to USDollars) is about $700!!!

    They make a decent product (though it breaks down WAY more often than a Valentine One), but they're low-lifes when it comes to ethics.

    Valentine Research on the other hand is pretty fair. They offer the BEST radar detector for a price that hasn't changed in more than a decade - though the product is continuously updated. And they almost never break down. I've sold thousands of V1s and only had 3 come back for repair.

    Signed,

    Someone who knows the business

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Radar detector, May 13th, 2009 @ 6:48pm

    Good post

    I liked reading this post, you have covered the topic really very well, I am totally impressed, keep posts like this coming, will be around again.

     

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    identicon
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    Radar Detector Reviews

    I feel that if you can deliver a good profit at a good price, who cares where it comes from!

     

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