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

Court Grants Fees in Copyright Infringement Action after Finding Plaintiff’s Claims Untimely

In a July 17, 2015 ruling, Judge Lorna G. Schofield granted attorneys’ fees to the prevailing plaintiff in a copyright infringement action. The Court had previously granted summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s claims as untimely. In granting fees, Judge Schofield wrote that “Plaintiff’s claims under the Copyright Act were plainly time barred and therefore objectively unreasonable. Claims brought after the statute of limitations has run may be considered objectively unreasonable.”

Court Denies Attorneys’ Fees to Prevailing Patent Infringement Defendants

In a July 17, 2015 ruling, Judge P. Kevin Castel declined to award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing defendants in a patent infringement case, finding that the case was not exceptional. Judge Castel noted that his summary judgment ruling in defendants’ favor turned largely on claim construction issues and a determination that one of the patents-in-suit was not entitled to an early priority date, and did not require a detailed examination of the accused products. Thus, the Court reasoned, a more thorough pre-suit investigation by the plaintiff would not have exposed the action as lacking merit. Judge Castel also rejected defendants’ contention that the plaintiff’s lack of expert testimony on the doctrine of equivalents made the case exceptional, writing that the testimony on the plaintiff’s director of product innovation was sufficient.

Court Remands Removed Action as Not Involving a Substantial Federal Question

In a July 7, 2015 ruling, Judge John G. Koeltl ruled that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over a removed action in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant submitted false affidavits in an earlier copyright infringement action about a third party’s (named Sorenson) ownership of the copyrights at issue. The plaintiff prevailed in the earlier action, but claimed that the defendant’s false declarations prolonged it. Judge Koeltl found that although the present action raised a federal question (authorship in the copyright context), it was not a “substantial” question. The Court wrote:
In this case, [the plaintiff] agrees with this Court’s conclusion that Sorenson did not have a valid copyright. His argument is that this Court would have reached that decision earlier on a motion for summary judgment, or that Sorenson would not have brought the prior lawsuit, had it not been for [the defendant’s] allegedly fraudulent affidavits. That is not a substantial copyright question because it will not change the result of the prior litigation with respect to the invalidity of Sorenson’s copyright, and indeed [the plaintiff] does not argue that it should change the result.

Court Denies DMCA Safe Harbor Protection to Subsidiary Not Specifically Named in Copyright Office Directory

In a June 30, 2015 ruling, Judge J. Paul Oetken found that a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice filed with the Copyright Office directory under 17 U.S.C. § 512 to take advantage of the safe harbor provisions for internet service providers does not protect subsidiaries of the filer that are not specifically named. Judge Oetken noted that the statute requires the filing to contain the “‘Full Legal Name of Service Provider,’” and concluded that “the statute does not contemplate that a service provider entity can be shielded by the safe harbor where that entity has no presence at all in the [Copyright Office] directory.” The Court further found it “implausible that parties attempting to find a provider’s DMCA agent designation, using the [Copyright Office’s] database are expect to have independent knowledge of the corporate structure of a particular service provider.”
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