Website’s HTML Code, But Not Look and Feel, Protectable by Copyright

Media.net Advertising is an online contextual-advertising provider.  Customers can use Media.net’s web based platform to create custom ads.  Media.net registered its copyrights for its Original Media.net Results Page and its Revised Media.net Results Page.  The registrations listed HTML Code and text as the type of work created. 

Media.net sued competitor NetSeer for copyright infringement, alleging that NetSeer directly copied Media.net’s HTML code, including the non-functional portions of the code, and that NetSeer created its own search results page using the code it copied from Media.net.  NetSeer moved for summary judgment Media.net’s copyright claims on that basis that Media.net’s copyright registrations did not contain copyrightable material.   NetSeer also moved to dismiss the complaint for failing to identify the portions of Media.net’s HTML code that NetSeer copied.

The district court ruled that Media.net’s copyright registrations contain copyrightable subject matter and are valid and denied NetSeer’s motion for summary judgment.

Continue reading “Website’s HTML Code, But Not Look and Feel, Protectable by Copyright”

No Copyright Protection for Hot Yoga Sequence

People engage in yoga training to achieve anything ranging from spiritual fulfillment to overall physical fitness.  Bikram Choudhury developed a sequence of twenty-six yoga poses and two breathing exercises (the Sequence), described in his book, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class.  Choudhury’s Bikram Yoga studios offer instruction in performing the Sequence over a ninety minute session in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.  Choudhury actively markets the health and fitness benefits the Sequence provides.  Mark Drost and Zefea Samson completed the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training course and later, in 2009, opened Evolution Yoga.  Evolution Yoga teaches a 26 posture and 2 breathing exercise routine performed in 90 minutes in a 105 degree Fahrenheit room. 

Choudhury and Bikram’s Yoga College of India, L.P. sued Evolution Yoga for infringing Bikram’s copyright in the Sequence.  The district court granted Evolution’s motion for summary judgement on the copyright infringement issue, ruling that the Sequence is a collection of facts and ideas that is not entitled to copyright protection.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.

Continue reading “No Copyright Protection for Hot Yoga Sequence”

Copyright Protects the Batmobile Better Than Even Batman Can!

Mark Towle built and sold unauthorized replicas of the Batmobile as it appeared in the 1966 Batman TV show and in the 1989 BATMAN movie.  DC Comics publishes and owns the copyright to the Batman comic books.  DC Comics sued Towle for copyright infringement.  Towle argued that the Batmobile was not subject to copyright protection, but even if it was, DC Comics did not own the copyrights to the Batmobile as it appeared in the 1966 TV show and the 1989 movie. 

The district court ruled that the Batmobile was a character entitled to copyright protection, that DC owned the copyright in the Batmobile as it appeared in the 1966 TV show and the 1989 movie and that Towle infringed DC’s copyright.  The district court granted DC’s motion for summary judgment on the copyright infringement claim.  I blogged about the district court’s decision in Batmobile Not Excluded From Copyright Protection As a Matter of Law, Rules District Court. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s copyright decision.

Continue reading “Copyright Protects the Batmobile Better Than Even Batman Can!”

Chicken Recipe and Sandwich Name Copyrights Meet the Chicken Plucker

I like to look for humor in the law.  I also like to provide answers to questions people occasionally ask me, such as “Can I copyright my recipe?” and “Can I copyright a name?”  This case both contains humor and answers these questions.  Dee, my spouse, and I recently helped our friends Rebecca and Barbara assemble a Whizbang Chicken Plucker, so this post also gives me an opportunity to work that in.  Some people may not know that the chicken plucker makes life easier for humans by removing the feathers from the chicken after the chicken has been butchered.

Crying foul over the trademarking and continued sale of a chicken sandwich, plaintiffs-appellants Norberto Colón Lorenzana and Gladys Goza González filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.

(Opinion pdf page 2).

Norberto Colon Lorenzana (Colon) created a new chicken sandwich while working as an employee at South American Restaurant Corporation (SARCO), a Church’s Chicken franchisee, in Puerto Rico.  Colon named his creation the “Pechu Sandwich.”  SARCO eventually filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the name “Pechusandwich” and received a federal trademark registration.  Colon sued SARCO for trademark law violations and copyright infringement.  The district court granted SARCO’s motion to dismiss.  The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.  This post addresses the copyright infringement issues only.

Continue reading “Chicken Recipe and Sandwich Name Copyrights Meet the Chicken Plucker”

Gimme a “V” for Cheerleader Uniform Design Copyright Validity!

Are cheerleading uniforms truly cheerleading uniforms without the stripes, chevrons, zigzags, and color blocks? That is the question that strikes at the heart of this appeal.

(Opinion pdf page 2).

Varsity Brands and its affiliates registered a number of graphic design copyrights for designs appearing on the cheerleading uniforms and warm-ups they sell.  Varsity sued Star Athletica for copyright infringement for selling cheerleading gear with designs substantially similar to Varsity’s copyrighted designs.  Star Athletica argued that Varsity’s copyrights were invalid because they were unprotectable designs of useful articles.  The district court agreed with Star Athletica that Varsity’s copyright registrations were invalid, concluding that “a cheerleading uniform is not a cheerleading uniform without stripes, chevrons, zigzags, and colorblocks.”  The necessity of stripes, chevrons, zigzags and colorblocks meant that Varsity’s designs were for useful articles and not protectable by copyright.

The Sixth Circuit further refined its initial statement of the issue:    

When can the pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that are incorporated into the design of a useful article be identified separately from, and be capable of existing independently of the utilitarian aspects of the article?

(Opinion pdf page 2).

The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and remanded.

Continue reading “Gimme a “V” for Cheerleader Uniform Design Copyright Validity!”

Oracle BSODs Google Over Java Code Copyright Protection

Oracle owns the Java language computer source code.  The Application Programing Interfaces (API) contained in the source code consist of declaring code (headers, short statements) and implementing code (instructions for carrying out the declared function).  Google copied the Java declaring code verbatim (7,000 lines) and replicated (imitated, but didn’t copy verbatim) the overall structure, sequence and organization (SSO) of 37 Java API packages, but wrote its own implementing code for use in its Android mobile device platform. 

Oracle sued Google for copyright infringement.  Google argued that copyright does not protect the portions of the Java source code it copied.  The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the 37 Java API packages are entitled to copyright protection.”  (Opinion pdf page 17).  Although there are other issues in this case, this post discusses only the Federal Circuit’s copyrightability analysis.

Continue reading “Oracle BSODs Google Over Java Code Copyright Protection”

Policy Limiting Tweeting at UW Basketball Games Excessive, Unconstitutional

The University of Washington’s enforcement of its Live Coverage Policy at UW basketball games has the media crying foul.  The UW’s Live Coverage Policy states that members of the media who are “Credential Holders” “are not permitted to promote or produce in any form a ‘real time’ description of the event.”  A local reporter was recently reprimanded for sending excessive tweets during a UW basketball game. 

On what legal authority does the UW base the adoption of its Live Coverage Policy?  When considered in light of the live NBA broadcast, hot news and college football First Amendment cases discussed below, the UW’s actions exceed the scope of its live broadcast rights and violate the First Amendment.

Continue reading “Policy Limiting Tweeting at UW Basketball Games Excessive, Unconstitutional”

Homebuilder Infringes Copyrights By Posting House Drawings on Its Website

Scholz Design, Inc. obtained copyright registrations for homes it designed in 1988 and 1989.  Scholz submitted both technical drawings and front-elevation drawings, i.e., scale drawings of the fronts of the homes, to the Copyright Office.  Scholz entered into contracts with Sard Custom Homes, LLC, allowing Sard to construct homes from Scholz’s copyrighted home plans.  Sometime after the contracts ended, Sard posted Scholz’s front-elevation drawings on Sard’s websiteScholz sued Sard, alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, breach of contract and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violations.

Sard argued that Scholz’s drawings could not receive copyright protection, as they were registered prior to the effective date of the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (AWCPA) and they did not contain enough detail to construct a building.  The district court agreed with Sard and dismissed the complaint.  The Second Circuit reversed, vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling.

Copyright protection of a pictorial work, whether depicting a house, or a flower, or a donkey, or an abstract design, does not depend on any degree of detail.  The rights Scholz claims in this suit derive from the general copyright law and not from the AWCAP, which has no relevance to the suit.

(Opinion pdf page 8).

Continue reading “Homebuilder Infringes Copyrights By Posting House Drawings on Its Website”