infringement
Subscribe to infringement's Posts

Litigation Funding Probe Continues to Make Waves

On remand from a decision allowing the US District Court for the District of Delaware to continue its probe into who was funding a patent owner’s infringement litigation, the district court denied the patent owner’s motion to withdraw the court’s memorandum explaining why records sought in its prior order were relevant to addressing several concerns. The district court also issued an order to show cause as to why the patent owner should not be sanctioned for failing to produce the records that the court sought. Nimitz Techs. LLC v. Bloomberg L.P., Case No. 22-413-CFC, ECF Nos. 27-28 (D. Del. Dec. 14, 2022) (Connolly, J.)

Nimitz filed a mandamus petition seeking to reverse a district court order that sought litigation funding records from Nimitz. While the mandamus petition was pending, the district court issued a memorandum explaining the relevancy of the records it sought. On December 8, 2022, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued its decision denying Nimitz’s mandamus petition.

On the same day that the Federal Circuit’s decision issued, Nimitz filed a motion in the district court asking the court to withdraw its memorandum. Less than a week later, the court issued an order summarily denying the motion but addressing two matters raised in the motion because those matters had been raised in related actions.

In its motion, Nimitz argued that the court’s disclosure order did not cover limited liability companies because the order referred to “limited liability corporations.” The court rejected the argument, explaining that courts—including the Supreme Court of the United States, the Delaware Supreme Court, the Delaware Court of Chancery and the last four chief judges of the district court itself—routinely refer to limited liability companies as “limited liability corporations.”

Nimitz also sought the judge’s recusal, arguing that the district court had already publicly adjudged Nimitz and its counsel guilty of fraud and unethical conduct. The court rejected Nimitz’s argument, noting that the judge previously stated that the memorandum purposefully did not repeat his concerns “about counsel’s professionalism and potential role in the abuse of the Court because I have made no definitive conclusions about those issues, and I did not want to unnecessarily embarrass counsel.” The court, therefore, denied the motion.

The district court separately issued an order to show cause why Nimitz should not be sanctioned for failing to produce the litigation funding documents sought by the court. The court noted that the Federal Circuit denied the mandamus petition on December 8, and as of December 14, Nimitz had not produced any documents or asked for an extension of time to produce documents. Nimitz filed a response on December 21 arguing that the district court proceeding remained stayed until the Federal Circuit issued a mandate. Nimitz also argued that it is seeking further appellate review of the district court’s order and cannot produce the requested documents because it would moot the further appeal.




Full Speed Ahead: District Court Entitled to Explore Litigation Funding Arrangements

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied a patent owner’s mandamus petition, clearing the way for a district court to probe who is funding the patent owner’s infringement litigation. In re Nimitz Techs. LLC, Case No. 23-103 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 8, 2022) (Lourie, Reyna, Taranto, JJ.) (per curiam) (nonprecedential).

Nimitz filed a complaint for patent infringement against Buzzfeed in the US District Court for the District of Delaware. The case was assigned to Chief Judge Connelly. Judge Connelly has two standing orders that require parties to disclose third-party litigation funders and the name of every individual and corporation with a direct or indirect ownership interest in the party. Nimitz filed a disclosure statement identifying Mark Hall as the sole owner and LLC member of Nimitz, and a statement representing that Nimitz has not entered any arrangement with third-party funders.

The district court later became aware that an entity called IP Edge was arranging assignments of patents to various LLCs that were plaintiffs in other actions before the district court. Based on the review of the documents in the other cases, it appeared to the district court that Hall had a connection with IP Edge. The district court ordered Hall and Nimitz’s counsel to appear at a hearing. During the hearing, the district court explored the relationship between Nimitz and an entity called Mavexar. After the hearing, the district court ordered production of communications between Hall, Mavexar and IP Edge, and communication and documents relating to the formation of Nimitz, Nimitz’s assets, Nimitz’s potential scope of liability resulting from the acquisition of the patent, the settlement or potential settlement of the cases and the prior evidentiary hearing. The district court also ordered production of monthly bank statements from Nimitz. Nimitz appealed to the Federal Circuit by filing a petition for writ of mandamus seeking an order vacating the district court’s order.

The Federal Circuit initially stayed the district court’s order pending the Court’s decision. While the mandamus petition was pending, the district court issued a memorandum explaining that the records sought in its prior order were relevant to addressing several concerns, including the following:

  • Compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct
  • Compliance with the district court’s orders
  • Determining whether real parties in interest other than Nimitz, such as Mavexar and IP Edge, were hidden from the Court and the defendants
  • Determining whether those real parties in interest perpetrated a fraud on the district court by fraudulently conveying to a shell LLC the patent-in-suit and filing a fictitious patent assignment with the US Patent & Trademark Office designed to shield those parties from the potential liability they would otherwise face in asserting the patent in litigation.

Nimitz had argued that the district court’s order was improper because it would require disclosure of highly confidential litigation materials, including material protected by the attorney-client privilege and work-product immunity. In its decision on mandamus, the Federal Circuit rejected that argument, finding that the district court order made clear that Nimitz [...]

Continue Reading




On the Border of Art and Trademark: First Amendment Trumps the Lanham Act

The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit weighed trademark rights against free speech considerations and found that the First Amendment protected use of an artistic work that was not deliberately misleading. MGFB Properties Inc. et al. v. 495 Productions Holdings LLC et al., Case No. 21-13458 (11th Cir. Nov. 29, 2022) (Luck, Brasher, Hull, JJ.) (Brasher, J., concurring).

The suit was brought by MGFB Properties, Flora-Bama Management and Flora-Bama Old S.A.L.T.S. (collectively, the plaintiffs). The plaintiffs own and operate the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package and Oyster Bar on the Florida-Alabama border. The lounge has been in business since 1964 and is well known in the region. The plaintiffs registered their trademark FLORA-BAMA in 2013.

Viacom and 495 Productions (collectively, the defendants) produce reality television series, such as the hit 2009 series Jersey Shore. In light of Jersey Shore’s success, the defendants produced several spinoffs. In 2016 the defendants decided to develop a new spinoff based on “southern beach culture” and chose the term “Floribama” to describe “relaxing Florida beaches with the down-home Southern vibe of Alabama.” The defendants were aware of the name’s connection to the Florabama Lounge but used the term regardless to identify a specific stretch of the Gulf Coast (the Florida and Alabama coasts) and inserted dialogue into the show to explain the term. The show’s logo emphasized its connection to the Jersey Shore franchise:

The plaintiffs argued that the defendants’ use of “Floribama” was a violation of the Lanham Act and caused unfair confusion and damage to their brand. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. Plaintiffs appealed.

The Eleventh Circuit upheld the district court’s judgment that the defendants’ First Amendment rights as the creators of an artistic work outweighed the plaintiffs’ interest in their trademark and in avoiding confusion around their brand: “[c]reative works of artistic expression are firmly ensconced within the protections of the First Amendment.” In reaching its outcome, the Court applied the 1989 Rogers v. Grimaldi test.

Under the first prong of the Rogers test, “an artistically expressive use of a trademark will not violate the Lanham Act unless the use of the mark has no artistic relevance to the underlying work whatsoever.” Here, the Eleventh Circuit found that the defendants’ use of the term “Floribama” to describe the geographic area featured in Floribama Shore and the subculture of that region satisfied the first element of the Rogers test. The Court held that it was sufficient for the defendants’ use of “Floribama” to be relevant to their show, even if the term was not “necessary” to production of the show.

Under the second prong of the Rogers test, the Eleventh Circuit found that the defendants’ use of “Floribama” was not explicitly misleading “as to the source or content of the work” [...]

Continue Reading




Functionality Dooms Alleged Trade Dress Protection

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment of noninfringement in a trade dress suit, finding that the trade dress was functional and the attorneys’ fee award—as diminished by the district court—was appropriate. Pocket Plus, LLC v. Pike Brands, LLC, Case No. 21-3414 (8th Cir. Nov. 15, 2022) (Gruender, Melloy, Erickson, JJ.)

Since 2009, Pocket Plus has sold vertically oriented pouches that attach to waistbands or belts to carry water bottles, cell phones and other small objects. Pike Brands, d/b/a Running Buddy, began selling similar pouches in 2012 and introduced a vertical version in 2015. In 2021, Pocket Plus sent cease and desist letters to Running Buddy, then sued for trade dress infringement under Iowa common law and the Lanham Act. Running Buddy moved for summary judgment, arguing that Pocket Plus’s trade dress was unprotectable. Running Buddy also threatened Rule 11 sanctions because of the weakness of the case. After winning summary judgment, Running Buddy moved to recover attorneys’ fees, which the district court partially granted. Both parties appealed, with Pocket Plus challenging the summary judgment grant and both parties challenging the amount of the attorneys’ fee award.

The Eighth Circuit began by noting that the issue of validity was complicated by Pocket Plus’s shifting explanation of what its trade dress was, explaining that its “definition evolved throughout the litigation,” becoming increasingly detailed. Eventually, the Court reasoned that regardless of which definition prevailed, the result was the same.

Addressing the noninfringement finding, the Eighth Circuit recited the relevant legal principles, explaining that to prove infringement, a plaintiff must show that its trade dress is nonfunctional and distinctive and that a lack of protection may confuse customers. The Court explained that it must consider trade dress in its entirety—not as individual elements—and determine whether features are protectable “arbitrary embellishment” or simply essential to product use. In this case, Pocket Plus never registered its trade dress so it did not benefit from a presumption of nonfunctionality. Pocket Plus argued that its vertical orientation and over-the-hip design were nonfunctional elements since competitors made pouches differently and that packaging illustrations likewise made the trade dress nonfunctional. The Court was not persuaded, finding that each feature the plaintiff pointed to was designed to “affect [the pouch’s] suitability for carrying objects,” making each feature essential to purpose and therefore functional. Because the Court found functionality, it affirmed noninfringement without addressing the other requirements.

The Eighth Circuit next considered the attorneys’ fees. Under the Lanham Act, a court may, in its discretion, grant attorneys’ fees to the winning party but only in “exceptional cases” after “considering the totality of the circumstances.” Pocket Plus argued that this case was not “exceptional” while Running Buddy argued that the district court abused its discretion in awarding only a portion of the attorneys’ fees.

The Eighth Circuit addressed both exceptionality and the amount awarded, in turn. To be “exceptional,” a case must be objectively unreasonable, motivated by ill will or frivolous. The Court noted Pocket Plus’s weak [...]

Continue Reading




Supreme Court to Consider First Amendment Protection for Parody Dog Toy

The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to consider the scope of protection afforded by the First Amendment to commercial parody products that feature the unauthorized use of another party’s trademark(s). Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products LLC, Case No. 22-148 (Supr. Ct. Nov. 21, 2022) (certiorari granted). The questions presented are as follows:

  1. Whether humorous use of another’s trademark as one’s own on a commercial product is subject to the Lanham Act’s traditional likelihood-of-confusion analysis, or instead receives heightened First Amendment protection from trademark-infringement claims.
  2. Whether humorous use of another’s mark as one’s own on a commercial product is “noncommercial” under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(3)(C), thus barring as a matter of law a claim of dilution by tarnishment under the Trademark Dilution Revision Act.

This is the second time Jack Daniel’s has filed a petition for certiorari in connection with this case. The Supreme Court first considered the matter in January 2021, following the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision to vacate and remand the district court’s finding of trademark infringement, reverse the judgment on dilution and uphold the validity of Jack Daniel’s trademark and trade dress rights.

The case then returned to the district court, which granted summary judgment to VIP Products. The Ninth Circuit affirmed and then Jack Daniel’s filed its second petition for certiorari.

The Supreme Court will seek to settle the long-standing split amongst the US Courts of Appeal regarding the proper analysis for parody in trademark infringement and dilution claims and the scope of protection afforded to it via the First Amendment.




After Supreme Court Remand, Copyright Infringement Claims Upheld in View of Registrant’s Unknown Inaccuracies

In February 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P., that lack of either factual or legal knowledge on the part of a copyright holder can excuse an inaccuracy in the holder’s registration under the Copyright Act’s safe-harbor provision, 17 U.S.C. §411(b)(1), which governs the effect of inaccurate information in a copyright application. In light of this decision, the Supreme Court remanded the copyright dispute between textile design company Unicolors and global fast-fashion retail giant H&M Hennes & Mauritz to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for further proceedings on the issue of whether Unicolors held a valid copyright in a 2011 textile design asserted in its copyright infringement claim against H&M. On remand, the Ninth Circuit concluded that under the correct standard confirmed by the Supreme Court, Unicolors held a valid copyright registration because the factual inaccuracies in its application were excused by the safe-harbor provision. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the prior jury verdict against H&M for copyright infringement and remanded with respect to the issue of damages only. Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P., Case Nos. 18-56253; -56548 (9th Cir. Nov. 10, 2022) (Bea, Bade, McCalla, JJ.)

The Copyright Act safe-harbor provision saves a copyright registration from invalidity when the application contains errors, except when the copyright registrant knowingly transmitted inaccurate material facts to the US Copyright Office. After the Supreme Court made it clear that “[l]ack of knowledge of either fact or law can excuse an inaccuracy in a copyright registration,” the Ninth Circuit was charged with determining whether Unicolors submitted its copyright application with knowledge that the information therein was factually inaccurate and with knowledge that the application failed to comply with the specific governing legal requirements. The Court first analyzed the validity of Unicolors’s asserted copyright registration, then addressed the remaining issues raised by H&M on appeal.

The Ninth Circuit’s first step in the validity assessment was to determine whether Unicolors’s application did, in fact, contain an inaccuracy. As in its prior decision, the Court concluded that the application was inaccurate because Unicolors registered a collection of 31 separate fabric designs as a single-unit publication when those 31 works were not initially published as a singular bundled collection, as required under the Copyright Act.

The second step of the Ninth Circuit’s inquiry looked at whether Unicolors submitted its copyright application knowing that it contained errors. This is where the Court departed from its prior decision and affirmed the district court’s decision regarding the validity of the registration. Specifically, the Court found that the single-unit registration issue was an unsettled question of law at the time of Unicolors’s application, such that Unicolors did not know that it submitted an application containing false information because it lacked the requisite knowledge of inaccuracy and lacked an intent to defraud the Copyright Office. Finding Unicolors’s copyright registration valid, the Court determined that Unicolors could maintain its copyright infringement claim against H&M.

[...]

Continue Reading



Ordinary Observer Conducts Product-by-Product Analysis in View of Prior Art

In one of two concurrent opinions concerning the same design patent case, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated a district court’s entry of a preliminary injunction after concluding that the court had failed to properly consider the accused products separately and in view of the prior art when determining the plaintiffs’ likelihood of success. ABC Corp. I v. P’ship & Unincorporated Ass’ns Identified on Schedule “A”, Case No. 22-1071 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 28, 2022) (Dyk, Taranto, Stoll, JJ.)

Hangzhou Chic Intelligent Technology and Unicorn Global (collectively, the plaintiffs) own four patents claiming designs for handle-less, two-wheeled, motorized, stand-on vehicles commonly referred to as “hoverboards.” Urbanmax, GaodeshangUS, Gyroor-US, Fengchi-US, Jiangyou-US, Gyroshoes and HGSM (collectively, the appellants) sell Gyroor-branded hoverboards. In 2020, the plaintiffs sued the appellants for patent infringement and sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. As explained here, the district court granted the preliminary injunction in 2020, but thereafter invited the plaintiffs to file a second motion for a preliminary injunction in light of unsuccessful motions by Fengchi-US, Urbanmax and Gyroor-US to dissolve the 2020 preliminary injunction for lack of notice under Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(a). Heeding the court’s advice, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a second preliminary injunction on August 24, 2021.

The primary issue before the district court concerning the 2021 preliminary injunction was whether the plaintiffs had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits that the accused products infringed the plaintiffs’ patents in light of certain prior art hoverboards. The prior art included a hoverboard with an hourglass-shaped body, which was a significant feature of the patented designs and the majority of the accused products. Despite the similarities between the prior art board and the claimed designs, the plaintiffs generally disregarded the prior art in their analysis. After comparing the four accused products as a group to the claimed designs, the plaintiffs’ expert opined that the accused products infringed the asserted patents based in large part on their similar hourglass bodies, in addition to other features.

The appellants’ expert countered that “the attention of the hypothetical ordinary observer will be drawn to those aspects of the claimed design that differ from the prior art,” rather than the hourglass shape, and that the additional ornamental features of the accused products were not substantially similar to the claimed designs. While the district court acknowledged that “resolving this expert dispute will likely require a trial,” it nonetheless concluded that the plaintiffs had demonstrated likelihood of success and entered the preliminary injunction order. The appellants filed a notice of appeal.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit concluded that the lower court had erred in four material respects:

  • Applying the wrong legal standard
  • Failing to conduct the ordinary observer analysis in view of the prior art
  • Failing to apply the ordinary observer analysis on a product-by-product basis
  • Crafting an overbroad injunction.

First, the Federal Circuit took issue with the district court’s entry of a preliminary injunction despite its [...]

Continue Reading




Heads Up: Defendants Deserve Fair Notice of Preliminary Injunctions

In one of two concurrent opinions concerning the same design patent case, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated a district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction and an order extending the preliminary injunction to new defendants for lack of notice under Rule 65(a). ABC Corp. I v. P’ship & Unincorporated Ass’ns Identified on Schedule “A”, Case No. 21-2150 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 28, 2022) (Taranto, Dyk, Stoll, JJ.)

On August 17, 2020, ABC Corporation I and ABC Corporation II (collectively, ABC) brought a design patent infringement action asserting four “hoverboard” design patents against several online merchants. The ABC patents claim designs for handle-less, two-wheeled, motorized, stand-on vehicles commonly referred to as hoverboards. Attached to its original and amended complaints, ABC provided a list of defendants in a Schedule A that was amended throughout the proceedings as new defendants were identified. Gyroor-US was an originally named defendant on Schedule A, but it was not served with the complaint and summons until January 29, 2021.

On November 24, 2020, the district court granted ABC’s November 20, 2020, motion for a preliminary injunction against the defendants then listed on Schedule A, including Gyroor-US, which had not yet been served and was not given notice of the motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(a). On May 24, 2021, the court also granted ABC’s May 6, 2021, motion to amend Schedule A to add GaodeshangUS, Fengchi-US and Urbanmax, binding them to the 2020 preliminary injunction even though they too had not received Rule 65(a) notice and were not served with process until June 25, 2021. GaodeshangUS filed a notice of appeal immediately following the court’s May 24 order. After several unsuccessful motions to vacate the 2020 preliminary injunction for lack of notice, Fengchi-US, Urbanmax and Gyroor-US also filed notices of appeal.

The Federal Circuit first determined that it had jurisdiction to hear the three appeals by GaodeshangUS, Fengchi-US, Urbanmax and Gyroor-US under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(c)(1), which grants the Federal Circuit exclusive jurisdiction of an appeal from an “interlocutory order[] . . . granting, continuing, modifying, refusing or dissolving [an] injunction[], or refusing to dissolve or modify [an] injunction[]” in any case over which the Federal Circuit would have jurisdiction of an appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1295, such as cases arising under the patent laws. The Court began by considering GaodeshangUS’s May 24, 2021, notice of appeal, which stated that the appeal was from the preliminary injunction “entered in this action on November 24, 2021 [sic],” rather than the May 24, 2021, order. The parties disputed whether GaodeshangUS’s notice of appeal was timely filed within 30 days of the relevant order and whether the May 24 order was appealable as a modification of the 2020 preliminary injunction. The Federal Circuit concluded that GaodeshangUS’s appeal should be interpreted to refer to the May 24 order because it was filed on the same day as the order and “a mistake in designating the judgment appealed from” is not fatal if “the intent to [...]

Continue Reading




The Name of the Game Is the Claims, Even if Specification Is Shared

Once again addressing the application of Alice, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit partially reversed a district court’s dismissal of several patents as subject matter ineligible for error in analyzing their claims together because of a shared specification despite different claim features. Weisner v. Google LLC, Case No. 021-2228 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 13, 2022) (Reyna, Hughes, Stoll, JJ.) (Hughes, J., dissenting in part)

Sholem Weisner sued Google for infringement of four related patents describing ways to “digitally record a person’s physical activities” and use the digital record. The patents’ common specification described how individuals and businesses can sign up for a system to exchange information (e.g., “a URL or an electronic business card”), and as they encounter people or businesses that they want recorded in their “leg history,” the URLs or business cards are recorded along with the time and place of the encounters. Google moved to dismiss the suit under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing that the patent claims were directed to ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101, and that Weisner had failed to meet the minimum threshold for plausibly pleading his claim of patent infringement under the Twombly and Iqbal standards (Twiqbal). The district court agreed and granted dismissal under Twiqbal. After holding a hearing on patent ineligibility, the district court also granted dismissal under § 101 but granted Weisner leave to amend his complaint. In his amended complaint, Weisner added infringement allegations, allegations related to patent eligibility and an “Invention Background and System Details Explained” section. Google again moved to dismiss the amended complaint based on both § 101 and Twiqbal, which the district court granted. Weisner timely appealed.

The Federal Circuit applied the Alice two-step analysis to determine whether the claims at issue were directed to a patent-ineligible concept, such as an abstract idea, and if they were, whether the elements of each claim, both individually and as an ordered combination, transformed the nature of the claim into a patent-eligible application. As discussed in the Supreme Court cases Alice and Mayo, the second step is “a search for an ‘inventive concept’—i.e., an element or combination of elements that is ‘sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [ineligible concept] itself.’”

There were four asserted patents in issue. For the first two patents, Weisner attempted to argue that the claims improved “the functioning of the computer itself” or “an existing technology process” by “[1] automatically recording physical interactions and [2] limiting what is recorded to only specific types of interactions that are pre-approved and agreed to by an individual member and a vendor member.” However, the Federal Circuit was unconvinced that this was the type of improvement found in Enfish to bring claims into the realm of inventiveness. Instead, the Court agreed with the district court that, consistent with past precedent, this was no different than travel logs, diaries, journals or calendars used to keep records of a person’s location, and that [...]

Continue Reading




When Are Compulsory Copyright Licenses Compulsory?

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit partially affirmed a district court’s summary judgment order holding that audiovisual recordings of live concerts do not fall within the scope of the Copyright Act’s compulsory license provision while purchasers of audio-only recordings obtain a compulsory license in the copyright of the work fixed by their predecessors/sellers. ABKCO Music, Inc. et al. v. Sagan et al., Case No. 20-3816 (2d Cir. Oct. 6, 2022) (Jacobs, Wesley, Menashi, JJ.)

In 2002, William Sagan purchased, through Norton, a collection of audio and audiovisual live concert recordings from Bill Graham Archives. All three parties are named defendants in this case. The agreement conveyed all intellectual property that the Archives held (from a transaction with Sagan) and included a disclaimer stating that record company and artist approval was required to exploit the recordings. The defendants’ subsequent purchases of other recordings contained similar limited assurance language regarding intellectual property rights. In 2006, the defendants made the entire collection publicly available online for a streaming and downloading fee. A year later, the defendants began using a third-party licensing agent to obtain compulsory licenses under 17 USC § 115 and negotiated licenses from plaintiff music publishers in the audio and audiovisual live concert recordings.

Section 115 of the Copyright Act requires persons seeking to make and distribute phonorecords of a previously published musical work to obtain a compulsory license by providing notice to the copyright owner before distribution and paying government-prescribed royalties. (§ 115(a)(1), (b), (c).) The Copyright Act defines phonorecords as “[m]aterial objects in which sounds, other than those accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work, are fixed.” (§ 101.) Section 115’s substantive requirements for duplications of audio/sound recordings fixed by another include requirements that the sound be fixed lawfully, and that duplication be authorized by the copyright owner. (§ 115(a)(1).)

In 2015, the music publishers sued defendants for copyright infringement of 197 musical works posted online without valid compulsory licenses. The music publishers alleged that the defendants did not obtain compulsory licenses for audiovisual works as required by § 115 and that the defendants failed to comply with § 115 substantive compulsory licensing requirements for audio-only works. Defendants argued implied license and equitable estoppel as affirmative defenses. The publishers sought damages and a permanent injunction pursuant to the Copyright Act.

The district court, on summary judgment, ruled that the defendants had no valid license authorizing the reproduction and distribution of the musical works in either audio or audiovisual format, that the defendants had neither an implied license nor any basis for estoppel, and that Sagan (a principal in several of the defendant streaming services) was liable for direct infringement. The district court denied the publishers’ request for an injunction but granted the publishers an award of attorneys’ fees. The defendants appealed from the summary judgment order and the order granting fees and costs. The plaintiffs cross-appealed denial of an injunction.

The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s holding that the defendants infringed each musical work [...]

Continue Reading




BLOG EDITORS

STAY CONNECTED

TOPICS

ARCHIVES