Articles Posted in Copyright

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Halo, a Hong Kong company that designs and sells high-end modern furniture, owns two U.S. design patents, 13 U.S. copyrights, and one U.S. common law trademark, all relating to its furniture designs. Halo’s common law trademark, ODEON, is used in association with at least four of its designs. Halo sells its furniture in the U.S., including through its own retail stores. Comptoir, a Canadian corporation, also designs and markets high-end furniture that is manufactured in China, Vietnam, and India. Comptoir’s furniture is imported and sold to U.S. consumers directly at furniture shows and through distributors, including in Illinois. Halo sued, alleging infringement and violation of Illinois consumer fraud and deceptive business practices statutes. The district court dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds, finding that the balance of interests favored Canada and that Canada, where the defendants reside, was an adequate forum. The Federal Circuit reversed. The policies underlying U.S. copyright, patent, and trademark laws would be defeated if a domestic forum to adjudicate the rights they convey was denied without a sufficient showing of the adequacy of the alternative foreign jurisdiction; the Federal Court of Canada would not provide any “potential avenue for redress for the subject matter” of Halo’s dispute. View "Halo Creative & Design, Ltd. v. Comptoir des Indes Inc." on Justia Law

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Gaylord, a renowned sculptor, created The Column, consisting of stainless steel statues depicting soldiers on patrol, as the center of the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Gaylord was paid $775,000. In 1996, an amateur photographer, Alli , visited the Memorial during a heavy snowstorm and photographed The Column. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Korean War armistice, selected Alli’s photograph of The Column for the stamp face, and paid Alli a one-time fee of $1,500. The Postal Service did not seek Gaylord’s consent, reasoning that the photograph was a “derivative work,” 17 U.S.C. 106(2). Gaylord sued for copyright infringement. The Federal Circuit held that the government was liable for infringement; that The Column was not a “joint work” (whose joint authors individually might grant permission); and that its use was not protected as fair use. On remand, the Claims Court considered: stamps used to send mail; commercial merchandise featuring an image of the stamp; and unused stamps purchased by collectors, for which the court assigned a 10% per-unit royalty, resulting in an award of $540,000 for the unused stamps, plus prejudgment interest. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Gaylord v. United States" on Justia Law

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Sun developed the Java computer programming platform, released in 1996, to eliminate the need for different versions of computer programs for different operating systems or devices. With Java, a programmer could “write once, run anywhere.” The Java virtual machine (JVM) takes source code that has been converted to bytecode and converts it to binary machine code. Oracle wrote 37 packages of computer source code, “application programming interfaces” (API), in the Java language, and licenses them to others for writing “apps” for computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices. Oracle alleged that Google’s Android mobile operating system infringed Oracle’s patents and copyrights. The jury found no patent infringement, but that Google infringed copyrights in the 37 Java packages and a specific routine, “rangeCheck.” It returned a noninfringement verdict as to eight decompiled security files. The jury deadlocked on Google’s fair use defense. The district court held that the replicated elements of the 37 API packages, including the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization, were not subject to copyright and entered final judgment in favor of Google on copyright infringement claims, except with respect to rangeCheck and the eight decompiled files. The Federal Circuit affirmed as to the eight decompiled files that Google copied into Android and rangeCheck. The court reversed in part, finding that the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the API packages are entitled to copyright protection, and remanded for consideration of fair use. View "Oracle Am., Inc. v. Google Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1930, A.A. Milne transferred to Slesinger exclusive merchandising and other rights to Winnie-the-Pooh works in the U.S. and Canada. In 1961, Slesinger exclusively “assigned, granted, and set over to” Disney the rights in the 1930 agreement. A 1983 agreement sought to resolve the parties’ disputes, but Slesinger contends it retained rights in the works, while Disney maintains Slesinger assigned all rights. In 1991, before the present litigation, Slesinger sued in state court, alleging breach of the 1983 agreement. Slesinger acknowledged that the 1983 agreement “regranted, licensed and assigned all rights” to Disney. The action was ultimately dismissed. The dispute continued in federal court. The district court dismissed, noting that the parties’ actions indicated the rights were transferred to Disney in the 1983 agreement. Between 1983 and 2006, Disney registered at least 15 trademarks. In 2004, Disney registered copyrights in 45 works and renewed copyright registrations for another 14. Slesinger did not attempt to perfect or register trademarks or copyrights before asserting its federal claims and never objected to Disney’s registrations until 2006, when the state court dismissed its claims and Slesinger attempted to cancel Disney’s applications and marks. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s dismissal, citing estoppel. View "Stephen Slesinger, Inc. v. Disney Enters., Inc." on Justia Law

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Gaylord created “The Column,” sculptures representing soldiers that are the centerpiece of the Korean War Veterans' Memorial on the National Mall. The Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of the armistice, with a photograph of The Column, licensed from a photographer. USPS issued roughly 86.8 million of the stamps, sold retail goods with the image, and licensed the image to retailers, without seeking Gaylord's permission. In 2006, Gaylord sued under 28 U.S.C. 1498(b) for copyright infringement. The Federal Circuit held that Gaylord owned the copyright and that USPS was liable for infringement, but remanded for determination of damages. The Court of Federal Claims rejected a claim for a 10 percent royalty on about $30.2 million in revenue allegedly generated by the infringing use, as well as a claim for prejudgment interest, finding that neither 28 U.S.C. 1498(b), which waives sovereign immunity for copyright infringement, nor the copyright infringement statute, 17 U.S.C. 504, authorizes a royalty-based award for copyright infringement and that the proper measure of damages was the reasonable value of a license, between $1,500 and $5,000. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded for determination of market value of the infringing use and award of prejudgment interest. View "Gaylord v. United States" on Justia Law