Articles Posted in Intellectual Property

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Plaintiff, a videographer, and his video production company, filed suit against North Carolina, alleging that plaintiff's copyrights were violated when North Carolina published video footage and a still photograph that he took of the 18th century wreck of a pirate ship that sank off the North Carolina coast. Plaintiff and his company also sought to declare unconstitutional a 2015 state law, N.C. Gen. Stat. 121-25(b), that provided that photographs and video recordings of shipwrecks in the custody of North Carolina are public records. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss with prejudice the claims against the state officials in their individual capacities and to dismiss without prejudice the remaining claims. The court held that North Carolina did not waive its sovereign immunity when it signed the 2013 Settlement Agreement; the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act did not validly abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity; and the Ex parte Young exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity did not apply in this case. View "Allen v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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This trademark infringement action concerned whether Walmart's use of the mark "Backyard Grill" on its grills, and grilling supplies infringed on Variety's use of its registered mark, "The Backyard," and unregistered marks, "Backyard" and "Backyard BBQ." Variety appealed the district court's calculation of disgorged profits and denial of its request for a jury trial, and Walmart cross-appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Variety and award of profit disgorgement, costs, and attorneys' fees. The court held that the district court improperly granted summary judgment in Variety's favor because there were genuine disputes of material fact as to whether a likelihood of confusion exists. The court vacated the district court's order granting Variety's motion for partial summary judgment and affirmed the order denying Walmart's motion for summary judgment; vacated every order entered subsequent to the summary judgment rulings; vacated the award of profit disgorgement, costs, and attorneys' fees; and dismissed the parties' respective cross-appeals pertaining to disgorgement, denial of jury trial, and award of costs and fees. View "Variety Stores, Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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The district court held Early Education in contempt and awarded Rainbow School $60,000, plus attorney's fees and costs, after Early Education violated the terms of a consent judgment and permanent injunction. The Fourth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not clearly err in finding multiple violations of the injunction; Early Education's violations harmed the Rainbow School; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding damages and attorney's fees and costs. The court dismissed Early Education's appeal from the order requiring it to undergo an audit based on lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court held that the question of whether Early Education should initially pay for an audit was neither inextricably linked nor a necessary precursor to the issues presented in the appeal from the district court's prior order, which made a determination of contempt and had nothing to do with paying for an audit. View "Rainbow School, Inc. v. Rainbow Early Education Holding LLC" on Justia Law

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The district court held Early Education in contempt and awarded Rainbow School $60,000, plus attorney's fees and costs, after Early Education violated the terms of a consent judgment and permanent injunction. The Fourth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not clearly err in finding multiple violations of the injunction; Early Education's violations harmed the Rainbow School; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding damages and attorney's fees and costs. The court dismissed Early Education's appeal from the order requiring it to undergo an audit based on lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court held that the question of whether Early Education should initially pay for an audit was neither inextricably linked nor a necessary precursor to the issues presented in the appeal from the district court's prior order, which made a determination of contempt and had nothing to do with paying for an audit. View "Rainbow School, Inc. v. Rainbow Early Education Holding LLC" on Justia Law

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BMG filed suit against Cox, alleging copyright infringement, seeking to hold Cox contributorily liable for infringement of BMG's copyrights by subscribers to Cox's Internet service. On appeal, Cox argued that the district court erred in denying it the safe harbor defense and incorrectly instructed the jury. The Fifth Circuit held that Cox was not entitled to the safe harbor defense under section 512(a) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(a), because it failed to implement its policy in any consistent or meaningful way. The court held that the district court did erred in charging the jury as to the intent necessary to prove contributory infringement. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "BMG Rights Management v. Cox Communications" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of competition in the market for software used to manage and analyze large and complex datasets. SAS filed suit against WPL, alleging that WPL breached a license agreement for SAS software and violated copyrights on that software. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment finding WPL liable for beach of the license agreement, holding that the contractual terms at issue were unambiguous and that SAS has shown that WPL violated those terms. The court vacated the portion of the district court's ruling on the copyright claim and remanded with instructions to dismiss it as moot. View "SAS Institute, Inc. v. World Programming Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to Agadir in Grayson O's trademark and unfair competition action. Grayson O sells products designed to protect hair from heat during styling, and owns a federal trademark registration for the mark "F 450." The Fourth Circuit found that Grayson O's mark was both conceptually and commercially weak; even if "450" was a separable, dominant part of Grayson O's mark, given the many other differences between Grayson O's and Agadir's marks, the district court correctly concluded that the marks were not similar; Grayson O failed to demonstrate that Agadir had an intent to infringe; and Grayson O failed to present evidence of actual confusion. View "Grayson O Company v. Agadir International" on Justia Law

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HPA filed suit against Lessard, Clark, Penrose, and Northwestern, alleging that the design, development, ownership, and construction of Two Park Crest, an apartment building in McLean, Virginia, infringed HPA’s architectural copyright embodied in Grant Park, a condominium building in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants, primarily because no reasonable jury could find that the Grant Park and Two Park Crest designs are substantially similar. The court concluded that the district court did not err in considering expert reports where the reports were were sworn to in declarations; at bottom, HPA failed to carry its burden of identifying a specific similarity between the Two Park Crest design and the protected elements of its Grant Park design; because HPA failed to present nonconclusory evidence that the designs are extrinsically similar, the court rejected HPA’s claim that the district court failed to credit its extrinsic-similarity evidence; and the court rejected HPA's claims that the district court misapplied relevant copyright law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Humphreys & Partners Architects v. Lessard Design, Inc." on Justia Law

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DRI filed suit against LIA and Ashley under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), alleging that an advertisement placed in a trade magazine by Ashley, and two statements made by the director of LIA's research laboratory, which ran in articles in the same publication, were false and misleading. On appeal, DRI challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment for LIA and Ashley on DRI's false advertising claim. The court agreed with the district court that DRI failed to substantiate a claim that the Ashley Ad is either literally false or impliedly false; that DRI failed to provide sufficient support for a false advertising claim with respect to the director’s statement in the Gunin Article; and that DRI failed to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the director's statement in the Andrews Article was a false or misleading representation of fact. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Design Resources, Inc. v. Leather Indus." on Justia Law

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Devin Copeland, a musician, filed suit under the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., against Justin Bieber and Usher Raymond IV, alleging that three recorded songs by defendants, each titled "Somebody to Love," infringe upon Copeland's copyright over his own, earlier song of the same name. On appeal, Copeland challenged the dismissal of his claim. The district court concluded that no reasonable jury could find that Copeland's song and defendants' songs sufficiently similar to give rise to liability for infringement. At issue was whether the songs at issue, assessed from the perspective of the intended audience - here, the general public - and taking into account their “total concept and feel,” are sufficiently intrinsically similar to give rise to a valid infringement claim. After listening to the Copeland song and the Bieber and Usher songs as wholes, the court concluded that their choruses are similar enough and also significant enough that a reasonable jury could find the songs intrinsically similar. Further, the choruses of the Copeland song and the Bieber and Usher songs are sufficiently important to the songs’ overall effect that they may be the basis for a finding of intrinsic similarity. The court declined to reach Copeland’s other arguments. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Copeland v. Bieber" on Justia Law