A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Court Denies Summary Judgment on Copyright Infringement Claim Finding Factual Issues about Validity

In a March 24, 2014 ruling, Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith denied summary judgment to plaintiff Steven J. Chirogianis on his copyright infringement claim over architectural plans. The plaintiff prepared plans for a proposed building to be developed by the defendants. The plaintiff obtained two copyright registrations for his original plans, but the defendants claimed that those plans had been copied from another architect.

Judge Smith wrote that under “‘the Copyright Act, a party seeking to establish infringement must prove: (1) ownership of a valid copyright; and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original.’” The Court found that the plaintiff “is entitled to a rebuttable presumption of validity as regards the copyrights” for the plans at issue. The defendants argued, however, that the presumption could be rebutted by the evidence showing that the plaintiff copied the plans from another architect also involved on the project. After reviewing and finding “confusion in the record” about the similarity of the plaintiff’s plans and the plans he allegedly copied, the Court “concludes that there are genuine issues of material fact concerning the originality, and thus the validity, of Plaintiff’s copyrights, precluding a grant of partial summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims of copyright infringement.”
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