Vacating the district court’s order denying a defendant’s recovery of attorneys’ fees under the Copyright Act, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that, even when asserted as a claim for declaratory relief, any action that turns on the existence and potential infringement of a valid copyright invokes the Copyright Act and therefore gives the district court discretion to award reasonable attorneys’ fees pursuant to § 505 of the Copyright Act. Doc’s Dream, LLC v. Dolores Press, Inc. and Melissa Scott, Case No. 18-56073 (9th Cir. May 6, 2020) (Callahan, J.).

Continue Reading Prayer for Declaratory Relief Invokes Copyright Act and Available Attorneys’ Fees

Addressing issues of design patent infringement, copyright infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair competition, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s grant of summary judgment on all claims. Lanard Toys Limited v. Dolgencorp LLC, Ja-Ru, Inc., Toys “R” Us-Delaware, Inc., Case No. 2019-1781 (Fed. Cir. May 14, 2020) (Lourie, J.).

Continue Reading Chalk One Up to the Knock-Off

Addressing a myriad of issues relating to copyright law, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the discovery rule applies for statute of limitations purposes in determining when copyright claims accrue, but damages are limited to three years before filing of the lawsuit. Sohm v. Scholastic Inc., Case Nos. 10-2110, -2445 (2d Cir. May 12, 2020) (Sullivan, J.).

Continue Reading Copyright Damages Limited to Three Years Before Lawsuit Filing

In a non-precedential ruling by summary order, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against famed comedian Jerry Seinfeld, finding that the defendant’s claims, which accrued in 2012, were time-barred. Christian Charles v. Jerry Seinfeld, et al., Case No. 19-3335 (2d Cir. May 7, 2020) (Summary Order).

Continue Reading What’s the Deal with Comedians?: Too Late for Copyright Claim against Seinfeld

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit addressed the copyright protection afforded to an information database and whether comments made to a reporter while litigation was ongoing violated the disparagement clause in a separation agreement. Ultimately, the Court affirmed a judgment against the defendant for copyright infringement and against its founder for breach of contract. In doing so, the Court upheld the findings that plaintiff’s database copyright was valid, even though it was only entitled to a narrow scope of protection, and that the defendant’s founder’s comments to a reporter violated his contract with the plaintiff. Infogroup, Inc. v. DatabaseUSA.com LLC, Case No. 18-3723 (8th Cir. Apr. 27, 2020) (Benton, J.).

Continue Reading For Your Information, Eighth Circuit Upholds Copyright Protection for Database Compilation

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States held that copyright law does not protect annotations contained in the official annotated compilation of state statutes. Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., Case No. 18-1150 (Supr. Ct. Apr. 27, 2020) (Roberts, Justice) (Thomas, Justice, dissenting) (Ginsburg, Justice, dissenting).

Continue Reading Official Statute Annotations Are Not Copyrightable

Addressing whether a copyright infringement claim should be dismissed with prejudice where the plaintiff failed to register his copyright prior to filing the lawsuit, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that dismissal is too harsh, remanding the case for consideration of whether the claim should be dismissed without prejudice or if the plaintiff should be entitled to supplemental allegations. Cortes-Ramos v. Martin-Morales, Case No. 19-1358 (1st Cir. Apr. 13, 2020) (Dyk, J.[1]).

Continue Reading Ricky Martin’s “Vida” Lives On, but Plaintiff Will Get Another Shot at It

Affirming a summary judgment in favor of defendant, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit determined that a copyright infringement lawsuit pertaining to the graphic design on a guitar made famous by a late heavy metal guitarist, was time-barred because the plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim was actually a claim of copyright ownership over the design. Buddy Webster v. Dean Guitars, et al., Case No. 19-10013 (11th Cir. Apr. 16, 2020) (Wilson, J.).

Continue Reading 11th Circuit Tells Guitar Maker to Take a [Pantera] Walk on Delayed Copyright Claims

On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which authorized the US Copyright Office (USCO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to temporarily waive or modify certain statutory deadlines. Prior to the CARES Act, the USPTO and USCO had sought to provide relief to intellectual property owners by waiving certain fees (including, for example, fees associated with petitions to revive abandoned applications), but had been limited by their inability to modify statutory deadlines.

The extensions will undoubtedly provide needed relief for certain rights holders during this tumultuous time. Nonetheless, if possible, adhering to original deadlines is the safest route, and parties should first carefully review the USPTO and USCO notices with a lawyer to determine whether the extensions are applicable and legally prudent.


Continue Reading US Copyright Office, USPTO Act to Assist Those Affected by COVID-19

Affirming a district court’s summary judgment in favor of various defendants, including the vocal music director and parent volunteers at Burbank High School (whose competitive show choirs reportedly inspired the television series “Glee”), the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit examined issues of standing via copyright ownership and the copyright infringement defense of fair use. The Court, however, reversed the lower court’s denial of defendants’ attorneys’ fees and remanded for the calculation of an appropriate award in view of plaintiff’s “objectively unreasonable” arguments in the lawsuit. Tresóna Multimedia, LLC, v. Burbank High School Vocal Music Association, et. al., Case No. 17-56006 (9th Cir., Mar. 24, 2020) (Wardlaw, J.).

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Gleefully Rejects Copyright Claims against California High School