Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Copyright
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In these cross-appeals, the First Circuit vacated the district court's opinion and order entered on September 30, 2017 and part of the amended judgment entered on September 19, 2019 and directed the entry of an amended judgment in favor of a playwright on his claim of copyright infringement, holding that the district court erred.At issue was whether Editorial Cultural, Inc. was liable for copyright infringement after it printed and sold 20,000 copies of the theatrical adaptations of two novels written by Puerto Rico author Enrique Laguerre. Plaintiffs - Laguerre's heirs and Roberto Ramos Perea, the playwright who adopted the novels for the stage - sued Editorial Cultural, claiming that Ramos owned the copyrights to both adaptations and that Editorial Cultural infringed those copyrights. The district court dismissed Ramos as the copyright owner and entered judgment against Editorial Cultural, awarding damages to Laguerre's heirs. The First Circuit eliminated Ramos as the copyright owner and awarded damages to Laguerre's heirs. The First Circuit directed the entry of amended judgment in favor of Ramos, holding that the district court erred in concluding that Laguerre retained the right to print the adaptations at issue here. View "Perea v. Editorial Cultural, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Copyright
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that the board game "The Game of Life" qualified as a "work for hire" under the Copyright Act of 1909.This case stemmed from a dispute between Rueben Klamer, a toy developer who came up with the initial concept of the game before it was introduced in 1960 by the Milton Bradley Company, and Bill Markham, a game designer that Klamer recruited to design and create the actual game prototype. Markham's successors-in-interest sued Klamer and other defendants seeking a declaration that they possessed "termination rights" under the 1976 Copyright Act. Termination rights, however, do not extend to "work[s] made for hire." The district court concluded that the game was a work for hire, and therefore, Markham's successors-in-interest lacked termination rights. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the game was a work for hire and that no termination rights existed. View "Markham Concepts, Inc. v. Hasbro, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Copyright
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Marvic d/b/a Brady-Built Sunrooms (Marvic) and dismissing Cynthia Foss's state law claims, holding that the district court did not err.Foss, a graphic designer, created a brochure for Marvic to use in marketing its sunrooms. Twelve years later, Foss brought a complaint alleging a federal claim for copyright infringement and pendent state law claims. The federal district court entered three separate rulings at issue on appeal: it granted Marvic's motion to dismiss Foss's copyright claim, it denied Foss's motion to withdraw certain statements that the court had deemed admitted, and it granted Marvic's motion for summary judgment on Foss's state law claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion as to the disputed rulings. View "Foss v. Marvic, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Copyright
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The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the decision of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claims alleging violations of federal copyright law and various Puerto Rico laws, holding that the district court correctly held that the complaint failed to state a copyright claim because it did not allege registration but that the district court erred in holding that the complaint otherwise failed to state a copyright claim and dismissing the complaint with prejudice.Plaintiff sued Enrique Martin-Morales (aka Ricky Martin) and other unknown defendants regarding Plaintiff's music video for a music contest. Plaintiff alleged that Martin's music video for his song Vida was almost identical to the one that Plaintiff composed and created. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The First Circuit held (1) aside from registration, Plaintiff sufficiently alleged a copyright violation, and remand was required to allow the district court to consider whether the to dismiss the copyright claim without prejudice or to allow Plaintiff to supplement his complaint to allege registration; and (2) the district court correctly dismissed the state law claims. View "Cortes-Ramos v. Martin-Morales" on Justia Law

Posted in: Copyright
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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Orgill, Inc. in this case alleging copyright infringement claims, holding that a copyright licensee given the unrestricted right to grant sublicenses may do so without using express language.Orgill markets and sells Sylvania lightbulbs. At issue was Orgill's use of Photographic Illustrators Corporation (PIC) photos of Sylvania lightbulbs in Orgill's electronic and paper catalogs. PIC and Sylvania had negotiated a license setting forth the scope of Sylvania's permission to use PIC's photographs of Sylvania lightbulbs, but Sylvania did not tell Orgill that Orgill needed to abide by an attribution restriction in Sylvania's license. PIC sued Orgill and other Sylvania dealers and distributors claiming copyright infringement. The district court determined that Orgill had a sublicense from Sylvania to use the photos and rejected PIC's argument that sublicensee of copyrights are ineffective absent language expressly granting permission to use the copyrighted work. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) where a licensor grants to a licensee the unrestricted right to sublicense and permit others to use a copyrighted work, a sublicense may be implied by the conduct of the sublicensor and sublicensee; and (2) a reasonable jury could have found that Sylvania granted an implied sublicense to Orgill. View "Photographic Illustrators Corp. v. Orgill, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Copyright
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The district court erred in granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss, based on an arbitration provision, Plaintiff’s claims that Defendant violated various articles of the Puerto Rico Civil Code and federal copyright and trademark laws.This suit stemmed from a songwriting contest held in Puerto Rico in 2014. As a contestant, Plaintiff agreed to the terms of the contest’s rules, which included an arbitration provision. The provision compelled the submission to arbitration of those claims that “aris[e] in connection with, touch upon or relat[e] to” those rules. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) based on that arbitration provision. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the arbitration provision did not reveal that the parties to it intended for Defendant, a third party, to benefit from it with the requisite clarity. View "Cortes-Ramos v. Martin-Morales" on Justia Law

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The district court erred in awarding attorney’s fees to Defendants in this case alleging various claims under Puerto Rico and federal law, including claims under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 505. Plaintiff sued Sony Corporation of America and other related defendants in connection with a songwriting contest that Sony had co-sponsored. The district court dismissed the claims with prejudice on the grounds that they were subject to mandatory arbitration under an agreement that Plaintiff had signed upon entering the contest and that his claims were subject to dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The First Circuit affirmed. Thereafter, Defendants moved for attorney’s fees under section 505 of the Copyright Act, which provides for attorney’s fees to the prevailing party. The district court granted the motion and awarded attorney’s fees. The First Circuit reversed, holding that Defendants did not qualify as prevailing parties under section 505. View "Cortes-Ramos v. Sony Corp. of America" on Justia Law

Posted in: Copyright
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In these consolidated appeals, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to (1) dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims under Massachusetts law for libel and intentional interference with prospective contractual relations, (2) bar portions of Plaintiffs’ Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A claim from going forward, and (3) award attorney’s fees and costs to Defendant.These consolidated appeals concerned a lawsuit that involved a number of claims arising under federal copyright law, state tort law, and chapter 93A. Defendant operated a website called RipoffReport.com. Plaintiffs were a Massachusetts attorney, a corporate entity that the attorney created, and Christian DuPont. Plaintiffs’ claims pertained to a dispute arising from two reports that DuPont authored and posted on the Ripoff Report and that were highly critical of the attorney. The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s partial grant of Defendant’s motion to dismiss, the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, and the district court’s fees award order for the reasons stated above. View "Small Justice LLC v. Xcentric Ventures LLC" on Justia Law

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Norbero Colon Lorenzana (Colon) was working for South American Restaurant Corporation (SARCO), a franchisee and operator of Church’s Chicken locations in Puerto Rico, when he suggested to his superiors the concept for a new chicken sandwich that could be included on Church’s menu. Church’s subsequently began selling the item, which it called the “Pechu Sandwich.” SARCO subsequently received a certificate of registration from the Puerto Rico Department of State trademarking the name “Pechu Sandwich” and also received a federal trademark registration for the name “Pechusandwich.” Colon brought suit alleging violations of the Lanham Act and Copyright Act. SARCO filed a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), which the district court granted. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly determined that neither the name “Pechu Sandwich” nor the recipe are eligible for copyright protection; and (2) that Colon failed to sufficiently plead that SARCO committed fraud in the procurement of a federal trademark for the Pechu Sandwich. View "Colon-Lorenzana v. South American Restaurants Corp." on Justia Law

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Dr. Ross Greene developed a method of treating children with explosive behaviors known as the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach and advanced this method through his work at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and through his publications, The Explosive Child, a book he wrote himself, and Treating Explosive Kids, a book he co-authored with Dr. J. Stuart Ablon. Greene alleged that MGH had infringed his CPS-related trademarks and that Ablon had infringed his CPS-related copyrights. MGH counterclaimed for ownership of the marks. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of MGH. After a trial, the jury awarded $19,000 on Greene’s claim that Ablon infringed on The Explosive Child. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that none of Greene’s defenses to the enforcement of his employment contracts with MGH succeeded; (2) the district court erred in ruling that Treating Explosive Kids could not be both joint and derivative as a matter of law, but the error did not improperly circumscribe the evidence Greene could present on his copyright claim; (3) the district court properly determined that Greene was not entitled to an accounting or an injunction; and (4) the district court properly denied Ablon’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. View "Greene v. General Hosp. Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Copyright, Trademark