State Law Can’t Protect Butterfly Valve from the Copyright Preemption Net

Ultraflo Corporation manufactures butterfly valves for use in the transportation industry. Ultraflo redesigned its Model 390 butterfly valve with the help of employee Thomas Mueller. Mueller left Ultraflo to work for Pelican Tank Parts, one of Ultraflo’s competitors. Pelican then produced a valve Ultraflo claimed was strikingly similar to Ultraflo’s own butterfly valve.

Ultraflo pursued its legal remedies, eventually suing Pelican and Mueller in federal court for state tort claims and copyright infringement. At trial, the jury rejected both Ultraflo’s trade secret and copyright claims. Ultraflo appealed the district court’s pretrial dismissal on preemption grounds of Ultraflo’s unfair competition by misappropriation claim. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling.

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Former NFL Pros’ State Right of Publicity Claims Preempted by Copyright Act

John Frederick Dryer, Elvin Lamont Bethea, and Edward Alvin are former National Football League (NFL) players who participated in a class action against the NFL.  The former players sued the NFL, claiming right of publicity and Lanham Act (trademark) violations by the NFL for showing the players in films about significant moments in NFL history.  NFL Films sells consumers copies of the films and licenses the films for public display to Warner Home Video, Hulu, ESPN and others.  The other class action participants settled with the NFL, but Dryer, Bethea and Alvin did not.

The district court granted the NFL’s motions for summary judgment on the players’ right of publicity and Lanham Act claims.  The Eight Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.

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