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BGH decides on keyselling

After the Regional Court of Berlin wanted to explain to us that the so-called exhaustion principle does not apply to license keys and that the sale of license keys, even after the ECJ decision of 2012, should constitute a copyright infringement (my article on this here), the Federal Court of Justice has now decided in a more differentiated manner. Accordingly, the resale of download software by disclosing the product key is covered by the exhaustion principle and thus permissible, provided that the prior purchaser has rendered his copies unusable.

a) If the plaintiff who was successful at first instance pursues the same objective of the action with an auxiliary claim filed for the first time in the appeal proceedings as with the main claim that was successful at first instance, this does not constitute an extension of the action that must be asserted with the cross-appeal (continuation of BGH, judgment of January 22, 2015 – I ZR 127/13, NJW 2015, 1608).

b) If the owner of the copyright in a computer program grants the purchaser of a copy of the program the right to use the program for the entire period during which the computer program is functional, this constitutes a sale within the meaning of Section 69c no. 3 sentence 2 UrhG, which may lead to exhaustion of the distribution right in the copy of the program.

c) The exhaustion of the distribution right to a copy of a computer program pursuant to Section 69c No. 3 Sentence 2 UrhG extends to the right to redistribute the program copy both by passing on a data carrier containing the program copy and by disclosing a product key required to download the program. It does not matter whether the reseller received the “exhausted” copy of the computer program from the seller by handing over a data carrier or by disclosing the product key.

d) If the “exhausted” copy of a computer program is resold by disclosing the product key, the subsequent purchaser’s authorization to download and thus reproduce the computer program pursuant to Section 69d para. 1 UrhG presupposes that the prior purchaser has rendered his copies of this program unusable at the time of resale. e) The trademark owner must, according to Art. 13 para. 2 CTMR, if there is a serious risk that the purchaser of the copy will infringe the copyright of the computer program (connection to BGH, judgment of 6 October 2011 – I ZR 6/10, GRUR 2012, 392 = WRP 2012, 469 – Certificate of Authenticity).


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Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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