Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Plaintiff alleged claims of copyright infringement and copyright management information (CMI) removal based on an underlying controversy involving defendants' promotion of their own version of a honey harvesting product, which replaced one that plaintiff had invented and that defendants had sold for many years through a website defendants owned.The court held that plaintiff was not entitled to statutory damages or attorneys' fees, because the first allegedly infringing act occurred before the date of the copyright registration and no genuine issue of material fact exists concerning this issue. The court also held that plaintiff failed to establish a CMI removal claim under the DMCA, because "Fischer's" cannot be construed as a CMI with respect to the advertising text at issue because it is simply the name of the product being described. View "Fischer v. Forrest" on Justia Law

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SM Kids filed suit against Google and related entities, seeking to enforce a 2008 agreement settling a trademark dispute over the Googles trademark. The agreement prohibited Google from intentionally making material modifications to its then-current offering of products and services in a manner that is likely to create confusion in connection with Googles. The district court concluded that the trademark assignment was invalid, and dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and held that the validity of the trademark was not a jurisdictional matter related to Article III standing but was instead a merits question properly addressed on a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a motion for summary judgment, or at trial. In this case, the district court erroneously resolved Google's motion as a fact-based motion under Rule 12(b)(1) and considered evidence beyond the complaint, as well as placed on SM Kids the burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "SM Kids, LLC v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the Welsh Government's motion to dismiss claims of copyright infringement brought by Pablo Star over two photographs of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife, Caitlin Macnamara, on the ground of sovereign immunity. The Welsh Government argued that the commercial-activity exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) does not apply to its conduct promoting Welsh culture and tourism in New York.The court held, however, that the Welsh Government engaged in commercial activity in publicizing Wales-themed events in New York, and that the Welsh Government's activity had substantial contact with the United States. Therefore, Pablo Star's lawsuit falls within an exception to the immunity recognized in the FSIA. View "Pablo Star Ltd. v. The Welsh Government" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Visions of America filed suit against Scholastic, alleging copyright infringement on 89 photographs plaintiff had authored. The district court determined that Scholastic had infringed six of the photographs and dismissed the remaining claims.The DC Circuit held that the district court properly recited the elements of a copyright infringement claim and placed the burden of proof on plaintiff to demonstrate that Scholastic's use of his images was outside the scope of the license; Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 572 U.S. 663 (2014), did not abrogate this Circuit's adoption of the "discovery rule" for copyright infringement claim accrual in Psihoyos v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 748 F.3d 120 (2d Cir. 2014); the Copyright Act limits damages to the three years prior to when a copyright infringement action is filed; and the registration of a compilation of photographs under 17 U.S.C. 409 by an applicant who holds the rights to the component works is valid and effectively registers the underlying individual photos, even if the compilation does not list the individual authors of the individual photos. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part, remanding for further proceedings. View "Sohm v. Scholastic Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action seeking a declaratory judgment adjudicating the validity of defendants' trademark registrations relating to the "SULKA" mark.The court held that, before a court may entertain an action for declaratory relief in the context of trademarks, the plaintiff must allege that he has taken some action showing that he has both the "definite intent and apparent ability to commence use of the marks on the product." In this case, the court held that defendant's allegations are too vague to support the exercise of federal jurisdiction. The court explained that the only allegation that does relate to the U.S. market is plaintiff's application to register the mark in the United States. However, while his allegation is certainly relevant to the matter of intent, it has little bearing on plaintiff's ability to transition his business to the United States and there were significant reasons for the district court to be skeptical that he was, in fact, prepared to enter the U.S. market. View "Saleh v. Sulka Trading Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's award of statutory damages to plaintiffs under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. Defendants are developers who destroyed aerosol artwork that plaintiff painted on buildings owned by defendants. The site was known as 5Pointz in Long Island City, New York, and evolved into a major global center for aerosol art, attracting thousands of visitors, numerous celebrities, and extensive media coverage.The court held that the district court correctly determined that temporary artwork may achieve recognized stature so as to be protected from destruction by VARA and that plaintiffs' work had achieved that stature. The court also held that the district court did not err in finding defendants' violations of VARA to be willful and that the district court's award of statutory damages was not an abuse of discretion. View "Castillo v. G&M Realty L.P." on Justia Law

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When the existence of a license is not in question, a copyright holder must plausibly allege that the defendant exceeded particular terms of the license. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Scholastic in an action brought by Yamashita for copyright infringement.The court held that, although Yamashita stands in this suit not as a party to the contract that set the limits now allegedly breached, and more as a beneficiary of that contract, the Corbis‐Scholastic license still sets the terms that provide the foundation for Yamashita's complaint. The court held that the speculative, indefinite allegations made in this case as to all photographs, except the ones in Row 80, were insufficient to state a claim. Furthermore, the court's decision was not in conflict with Arista Records, LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110 (2d Cir. 2010). Finally, because the proposed amendment would not cure the complaint's defects, leave to amend was futile. View "Yamashita v. Scholastic Inc." on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment action over the copyright ownership of six scores composed by Ennio Morricone, the assignee of Morricone's copyrights sought to terminate that assignment under the U.S. Copyright Act. The district court granted summary judgment to Bixio Music Group, the company in which Morricone assigned his rights to the scores. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that the scores were not works made for hire under either Italian law or U.S. law. Therefore, the works were subject to the termination right of 17 U.S.C. 203. View "Ennio Morricone Music, Inc. v. Bixio Music Group" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from the parties' dispute over plaintiffs' "Velocity" trademark for clothing and activewear. The Second Circuit held that the district court did not err by determining that defendants' infringement was willful and by awarding plaintiffs the gross profits derived by defendants' infringement; the district court did not err by amending the judgment to remove the trebled portion of the profits award; and the court clarified that, under its precedent in George Basch Co. v. Blue Coral, Inc., 968 F.2d 1532 (2d Cir. 1992), a plaintiff prosecuting a trademark infringement claim need not in every case demonstrate actual consumer confusion to be entitled to an award of an infringer's profits.However, the court vacated the district court's award of attorney's fees and prejudgment interest to plaintiffs and its determination that this was an "exceptional" case under the Lanham Act. While this appeal was pending, the court held that the standard for determining an "exceptional" case under the Patent Act applies also to cases brought under the Lanham Act. Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to apply Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., 572 U.S. 545 (2014). View "4 Pillar Dynasty LLC v. New York & Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The parties dispute the ownership of copyrights in 44 articles written by the film critic Stanley Kauffmann, which first appeared in The New Republic magazine and now have been republished in an anthology. The Estate appealed the district court's dismissal of the complaint against RIT for copyright infringement based on RIT's publication of the anthology. RIT asserted the defense that the Estate did not own the copyrights, arguing that the articles were works for hire and that the magazine was the author of the works with ownership of the copyrights.The Second Circuit held that Kauffmann's articles were not works for hire because the letter agreement (which stated that his articles were works for hire) was signed long after the works were created, and no special circumstances even arguably warrant applying the written agreement. Therefore, Kauffmann was and remains the author of the 44 articles and his Estate, as his successor, was the owner of the copyrights in them. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "The Estate of Stanley Kauffmann v. Rochester Institute of Technology" on Justia Law