Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Copyright
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After defendant pleaded guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement, the district court sentenced defendant to 46 months' imprisonment and ordered him to pay restitution to the copyright owner, Scientific Games Corporation.After determining that defendant's appeal waiver did not bar defendant's challenge, the Fifth Circuit vacated the restitution order, concluding that the government failed to carry its burden of properly establishing the number of infringing items placed into commerce that defendant was responsible for and the resulting harm to Scientific Games in terms of lost net profit. The court remanded for the district court to reanalyze the government's evidence and to determine the number of counterfeit Life of Luxury (LOL) motherboards actually sold and put into the market to compete with legitimate LOL games and the net profit lost by Scientific Games as a result. The court dismissed defendant's challenge to the imposition of a sentencing enhancement because it is barred by his appeal waiver. View "United States v. Kim" on Justia Law

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Paul Batiste, a local jazz musician, brought a copyright infringement action against the world-famous hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. After the district court found no evidence of copyrighting, it granted summary judgment for defendants and then ordered both Batiste and his attorney to pay defendants' attorneys' fees.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court acted well within its discretion in denying Batiste's motion for leave to supplement his summary-judgment opposition. The court also held that the district court correctly granted summary judgment for defendants on the copyright infringement claims where Batiste failed to produce evidence for a reasonable jury to infer that defendants had access to his music or to find striking similarities between his songs and those of defendants. Therefore, he cannot prove factual copying and his copyright claims fail. The court further held that, given the objective unreasonableness of Batiste's claims, his history of litigation misconduct, and his pattern of filing overaggressive copyright actions, the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding fees to defendants under the Copyright Act. Finally, the court lacked jurisdiction to review Batiste's challenge to the district court's decision to hold his attorney jointly and severally liable for the fee award as a sanction. View "Batiste v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Digidrill filed suit against its competitor, Petrolink, alleging that Petrolink hacked into its software at various oil drilling sites in order to "scrape" valuable drilling data in real time. The district court granted Petrolink's motion for summary judgment on Digidrill's copyright claims. Digidrill's unjust enrichment claim proceeded to trial, where a jury returned a verdict in Digidrill's favor.In regard to the copyright infringement claim, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that Digidrill likely waived its "qualitative importance" argument but, even if not, the argument fails on the merits because no reasonable jury could find substantial similarity based on the qualitative importance of the copied schema to DataLogger as a whole. The court also affirmed the district court's judgment as to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act claims, holding that the USB dongle and Interface Process did not effectively control access to the protected database schema.The court also held that Digidrill's unjust enrichment claim is not preempted by the Copyright Act because the claim incorporates an element beyond mere unauthorized copying. The court held that the available Texas authorities do not foreclose the possibility that a litigant may show the taking of an undue advantage without showing the violation of a law or legal duty. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Petrolink's judgment as a matter of law on the issue of whether Digidrill adduced sufficient evidence of the benefit Petrolink obtained from Digidrill. Finally, the court held that the district court failed to treat Petrolink as the prevailing party under the relevant statutes and failed to apply the correct legal standard. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's denial of Petrolink's motion for fees and remanded. View "Digital Drilling Data Systems, LLC v. Petrolink Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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EIG, publisher of "Oil Daily," filed suit alleging numerous instances of copyright infringement and violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) against KA, a boutique investment firm. KA purchased an annual "Oil Daily" subscription for a partner, but the partner routinely shared access with fellow KA employees and other third parties in violation of his subscription agreements and copyright law.The Fifth Circuit held that failure to mitigate is not a complete defense to copyright or DMCA claims for statutory damages; the district court properly denied KA's referral motion; and the district court properly denied KA's post-offer attorney's fees under Rule 68. The court also held that remand was necessary to determine copyright damages because the court could not determine whether the jury intended to award EIG $15,000 per infringed work. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of KA's 17 U.S.C. 411(b) referral motion; vacated the judgment in full and instated an award of $1,062,500 for EIG's DMCA claims. The court remanded as to copyright damages, attorney's fees, and costs, with the clarification that non-prevailing copyright and DMCA defendants may not recover post-offer attorney's fees under Rule 68. View "Energy Intelligence Group, Inc. v. Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, LP" on Justia Law

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Southern Credentialing filed suit claiming that Hammond's ongoing use of credentialing forms infringed Southern Credentialing's copyrights. The district court granted summary judgment as to the existence of the copyrights and infringement, granting damages, attorney's fees and costs, as well as an injunction barring Hammond from infringing the copyrights. Both parties appealed.The Fifth Circuit held that Southern Credentialing has valid copyrights protecting the selection and arrangement of information in its credentialing forms. The court also held that the district court correctly concluded that Hammond infringed valid copyrights of Southern Credentialing and thus the court affirmed the permanent injunction barring future infringement.The court held that 17 U.S.C. 412 bars statutory damage awards when a defendant violates one of the six exclusive rights of a copyright holder preregistration and violates a different right in the same work after registration. In this case, although Southern Credentialing was unable to obtain statutory damages, it has obtained an injunction that will protect against future infringement. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for entry of an amended judgment. View "Southern Credentialing Support Services, LLC v. Hammond Surgical Hospital, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law to defendants, concluding that federal law preempted ThermoTek's unfair competition claim and that ThermoTek failed to prove its damages for fraud. ThermoTek designs, manufacturers, and sells the VascuTherm system, which consists of a medical device and specially designed wraps that provide thermal and compression therapy. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in reaching the preemption defense on the merits. On the merits, the court held that federal copyright and patent laws preempted the unfair-competition-by-misappropriation claim. View "Motion Medical Technologies, LLC v. Thermotek, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, BWP Media and National Photo Group, filed suit against T&S, an internet service provider, for direct and secondary infringement. Plaintiffs alleged that T&S hosted an internet forum on which third-party users posted images that infringed copyrights owned by plaintiffs. The district court granted summary judgment for T&S. The court adopted the volitional-conduct requirement in direct-copyright infringement cases, and found that BWP did not contend that T&S did, in fact, engage in such conduct. In this case, the court explained that T&S hosts the forum on which infringing content was posted, but its connection to the infringement ends there. Rather, the users posted the infringing content. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "BWP Media USA, Inc. v. T & S Software Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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TGS, a Houston company requested seismic data from Geophysical, a Canadian company, under Canada's law that requires companies who gather seismic data about the Earth's substructure to submit their findings to the Canadian government. After a period of confidentiality, the Canadian agency that compiled this data was then apparently permitted to release it to members of the public upon specific request. Geophysicial then filed suit against TGS, alleging copyright infringement. The court held that the act of state doctrine does not forbid a United States court from considering the applicability of copyright's first sale doctrine to foreign-made copies when the foreign copier was a government agency. The court also held that the inapplicability of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., to extraterritorial conduct barred a contributory infringement claim based on the domestic authorization of entirely extraterritorial conduct. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Geophysical Service v. TGS-Nopec Geophysical" on Justia Law

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Ultraflo filed suit against Pelican, asserting an unfair competition by misappropriation claim under Texas law. Ultraflo alleged that Pelican stole its drawings showing how to design valves and then used them to make duplicate valves. The court previously held that copyright preempts this Texas cause of action when the intellectual property at issue is within the subject matter of copyright. Ultraflo contends that its claim escapes preemption because its valve design, when separated from the drawing itself, is afforded no protection under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq. Determining that Ultraflo did not waive its preemption challenge, the court concluded the district court correctly found that the state claim is preempted because copyright preemption prohibits interference with Congress’s decision not to grant copyright protection just as much as it protects a decision to provide protection. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Ultraflo Corp. v. Pelican Tank Parts, Inc." on Justia Law

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After GlobeRanger, a software maker, obtained a $15 million judgment in a trade secret misappropriation trial against competitor Software AG, Software AG appealed. The court found that the trade secret claim is not preempted but that a dismissed conversion claim was preempted and supports federal jurisdiction. In this case, GlobeRanger’s trade secret misappropriation claim requires establishing an additional element than what is required to make out a copyright violation: that the protected information was taken via improper means or breach of a confidential relationship. Because the state tort provides substantially different protection than copyright law, it is not preempted. As the complaint alleged only conversion of intangible property for which there is equivalency between the rights protected under that state tort and federal copyright law, complete preemption converted the conversion claim into one brought under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., that supported federal question jurisdiction at the time of removal and supplemental jurisdiction after it was dismissed. On the merits, the court concluded that GlobeRanger’s evidence is sufficient to show that Software AG used the Navy Solution in developing its own product. Therefore, the court upheld the jury's finding of trade secret use. Finally, the court rejected Software AG's claims of error in regard to the damages award and affirmed the award. View "GlobeRanger Corp. v. Software AG" on Justia Law