Articles Posted in Copyright

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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

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Plaintiff, a Maine limited liability company, sought a preliminary injunction in state court that would forbid Defendant, one of Plaintiff’s former independent contractors, from publishing any company-owned content on her new website. The Maine superior court granted Plaintiff’s preliminary injunction motion and denied Defendant’s motion to reconsider. Defendant then removed the case to federal court. Defendant filed a notice of interlocutory appeal before the district court ruled on the merits of the state court injunction or issued any order enforcing, dissolving, or modifying the injunction. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that because the state court entered the preliminary injunction before the case was removed to federal court, and the federal court did not then adopt or otherwise rule on the state court’s order before Defendant filed this appeal, the Court lacked appellate jurisdiction over the appeal. View "Concordia Partners LLC v. Pick" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were Massachusetts-based producers of “reggaeton” music. This case centered on seven songs released on an album distributed by Defendants that allegedly infringed upon copyrights held by Plaintiffs and breached contracts to which Plaintiffs claimed to be parties and/or third-party beneficiaries. The district court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, concluding (1) with respect to the copyright claims, Plaintiffs failed to register their copyrights in the underlying compositions they claimed were infringed, as required under 17 U.S.C. 411(A); and (2) with respect to the breach of contract claims, there was no evidence of a direct agreement between the parties or of third-party beneficiary status. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for Defendants on the copyright and contract claims. View "Alicea v. Ayala" on Justia Law

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From 1999 to at least 2007, Defendant illegally downloaded and distributed copyrighted music without authorization. In 2007, a group of recording companies (collectively, "Sony") filed this action against Defendant under the Copyright Act, seeking damages and injunctive relief. Sony pursued claims for thirty copyrighted works, although Defendant allegedly distributed far more than that amount. After a trial, the jury awarded $675,000 in damages, which represented $22,500 for each of thirty songs whose copyright Defendant violated. Defendant appealed, arguing that the award was so large that it violated his constitutional due process rights. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the jury's award did not violate Defendant's right to due process. View "Sony BMG Music Entm't v. Tenenbaum" on Justia Law

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Media Power Group, Inc. (MPG) owned four radio stations in Puerto Rico, branded "Radio Isla." Segments of several disputed songs were broadcast during various news and talk show programs on Radio Isla. Latin American Music Company (LAMCO) filed suit against MPG and its president, seeking money damages for violations of the Copyright Act as to twenty-one songs. The district court granted MPG's motion for summary judgment as to twelve songs, and infringement claims as to the remaining nine songs were tried before a jury. The jury found LAMCO failed to prove it owned the songs and returned a verdict for MPG. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the issue of ownership was properly submitted to the jury; (2) the district court did not err when it ruled that LAMCO was collaterally estopped from litigating its claims as to four songs; and (3) the district court did not err in dismissing LAMCO's claims relating to four other songs for failure to produce evidence of registration. View "Latin Am. Music Co., Inc. v. Media Power Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a freelance photographer, took a photograph of a man, who called himself Clark Rockefeller, and the man's daughter. Later, it was discovered that the man had abducted his daughter and that his real name was Christian Gerhartsreiter. The photo was used by the FBI in a "Wanted" poster and was distributed in the media. Appellee Sony Pictures Television, Inc. subsequently produced a movie based on Gerhartsreiter's identity deception. In the movie, Sony pictured the photo using an image similar and pose and composition to Plaintiff's original. The photo, however, was different in a number of respects. Plaintiff filed this infringement action, alleging a copyright violation. The district court granted summary judgment for Appellees, concluding that no reasonable jury could find substantial similarity between Sony's recreated photo and Plaintiff's original. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that no jury could properly conclude that Sony's adaption of the photo infringed Plaintiff's copyright in his work. View "Harney v. Sony Pictures Television, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eastern Orthodox monastic order began a spiritual affiliation with the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)in 1965. Although the Monastery concedes it commemorated the bishops of ROCOR until 1986, it considers itself an independent entity. The Monastery's 35 monks worked on translating religious texts from their original Greek into English. The works were in demand amongst parishes, but the Monastery obliged requests on a limited basis. One of the monks went to Colorado where he formed Dormition Skete, dedicated to painting traditional Orthodox icons. A Skete member, the Archbishop, created a website devoted to the Orthodox faith. Based on postings on that site, the Monastery sued the Archbishop, in state court, for copyright infringement. The parties settled with the Archbishop acknowledging the Monastery’s ownership of the works. The website continued to include its translations; the Monastery filed a federal suit, 17 U.S.C. 101. The district ruled in favor of the Monastery, rejecting claims or public domain, that ROCOR was the true owner of the copyrights, and of fair use. The First Circuit affirmed. The Archbishop offered identical or near-identical versions of the works on his website for the precise purpose for which the Monastery originally created them, harming their potential market value. View "Soc'y of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Inc. v. Archbishop Gregory of Denver" on Justia Law

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In 2001 BPPR sought a declaratory judgment under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 after several music publishing companies contacted BPPR claiming that they owned and were owed royalties on music compositions that BPPR had produced and distributed in a series of Christmas concerts. BPPR deposited royalties due on the compositions with the district court and asked the court to declare to whom the royalties were due and distribute them accordingly. LAMCO and others countersued for copyright infringement. The district court denied motions for summary judgment. Several co-defendants settled their claims among themselves and with BPPR. The jury found BPPR liable for infringement of two compositions owned by LAMCO and ACEMLA, and awarded $42,941.00 in compensatory damages. The court found ACEMLA liable for violating a GVLI copyright and ordered $43,405.35 in damages. The First Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. The district court properly found that the settlement agreement did not preclude future litigation of 12 undisputed LAMCO songs. View "Banco Popular de Puerto Rico v. Asociacion de Compositores" on Justia Law

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The owner consulted with two architectural firms, T-Peg and VTW. T-Peg drew up a preliminary design then worked with the owner to refine the design. In 2001, T-Peg registered its design with the Copyright Office. Meanwhile, in 2000, the owner showed T-Peg's unregistered preliminary design to VTW, which began working on its own design. VTW completed its plan in 2002 with significant, minutely detailed input from the owner. Completed construction apparently reflected T-Peg's registered design. In a suit for copyright infringement, the court granted summary judgment for VTW and the owner, concluding that no reasonable jury could find that T-Peg's and VTW's designs were substantially similar. The First Circuit reversed and, following trial, the jury found in VTW's favor and rejected T-Peg's infringement claims. VTW sought fees of more than $200,000 under 17 U.S.C. 505. The district court granted VTW a fee award of $35,000. The First Circuit affirmed, finding that the district court adequately elaborated its reasoning.