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

Court Denies Application for Attorneys’ Fees after Voluntary Dismissal of Copyright Action

In an August 17, 2015 ruling, Judge John F. Keenan denied attorneys’ fees to the defendant after the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed a copyright infringement action without prejudice. Judge Duffy, acting in Judge Keenan’s absence, had previously denied the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. Since the defendant had moved to dismiss, but had not answered, the plaintiff retained the right to unilaterally discontinue the action, and did so. The Court ruled that the defendant was not the prevailing party, and thus not entitled to a fee award, because the plaintiff’s unilateral voluntary dismissal without prejudice “is not ‘judicially sanctioned’ since no court action is required.” Judge Keenan also found that “a dismissal without prejudice is not a change in the legal relationship between the parties because plaintiff can still bring the claim again.” Without reaching the merits of the defendant’s application for fees, the Court did note, though, that the application was untimely, and could have been denied on that ground as well.

Court Finds Sampling of Sound Recording Can Infringe Underlying Musical Composition

In an August 7, 2015 ruling, Judge Ronnie Abrams found that the “sampling” of a sound recording can constitute copyright infringement of the underlying musical composition. As Judge Abrams wrote, “‘[s]ampling’ is a ‘technique whereby a portion of an already existing sound recording is incorporated into a new work.’” In seeking summary judgment on the issue of sampling, the defendants argued that, even if it had sampled, it could not be liable for copyright infringement “because Plaintiff owns only the musical composition copyright, not the sound recording copyright, of” the allegedly infringed work. The Court rejected this argument, finding that while “sampling involves the direct copying of a sound recording, this mode of copying does not somehow shield a defendant from also infringing the underlying musical composition.” Judge Abrams concluded that “if Plaintiff is able to present evidence showing that Defendants did in fact sample the . . . drum part [in the allegedly infringed work], such evidence would constitute proof that Defendants actually copied Plaintiff’s musical composition.”

Court Finds Inventor Acted as Own Lexicographer

In an August 6, 2015 ruling, Judge Richard J. Sullivan found that the inventor of the family of patents-in-suit acted as his own lexicographer by submitting unsolicited “remarks” during the prosecution of one of the later patents in the family (the ‘010 patent). The Court wrote:
There is no dispute that the “remarks” Joao [the inventor] to the USPTO are part of the prosecution history for the ‘010 Patent, and although Defendants question his motives – noting that the constructions contained in the “remarks” simply echoed the constructions proposed in the claim construction brief of an unrelated case – for purposes of claim construction, the “remarks” appear sufficiently clear, deliberate, and precise.
Judge Sullivan then considered whether the “remarks” were pertinent to one of the earlier patents in the same family that had an identical specification, and used “the ‘remarks’ as extrinsic evidence for purposes of construing the terms of” that patent “to the extent those remarks do not directly contradict the plain meaning of those terms and such terms cannot be construed without the aid of extrinsic evidence.”
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