PARK CITY, UT – August 27, 2020
The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has ruled in favor of Maschoff Brennan clients Craft Smith, LLC against claims the company infringed LifePlanner’s registered compilation copyright and unregistered trade dress for its popular personal organizer. In its 37-page opinion in CraftSmith, LLC v. EC Design, LLC (2:16-CV-01235-DB) the Appeals Court affirmed the district court’s entry of summary judgment against EC Design, saying EC Design cannot use copyright law to stop competitors from selling products with a similar layout and format, so long as those competitors avoid the specific art and quotations used by EC Design.
“Copyright law does not protect how EC Design has laid out its LifePlanner, which is an idea, not expression. EC Design’s original idea of arranging a colorful organizer full of quotations and art is not protectable by copyright. Instead, copyright protects the selection, coordination, and arrangement of the specific text and artwork found in the LifePlanner compilation. Thus, when Appellees used entirely different artwork and text, even if arranged similarly, it did not copy the LifePlanner’s protected expression. (p. 20, citations omitted, emphasis added)”
The court also found EC Design cannot use trade dress law for the same purpose because it presented insufficient evidence that the product design of the LifePlanner serves primarily a source-identifying function: “For example, by choosing a similar calendar layout or size for their planner, the Appellees likely did so to take advantage of an already popular layout and size. But this relates to the product’s functionality, rather than its source. Further, Appellees used different cover art and cover types, and did not use anything like the registered trademark symbols employed on the cover of all EC Design LifePlanners. (p. 31.)”
The opinion concluded with: “We recognize that this decision may make it more difficult to obtain trade-dress protection for a product’s design. But this reflects the reality that trade-dress protection is an awkward fit for product design. (p. 36 n. 27.)”
The opinion makes a special effort to clarify Tenth Circuit law regarding copyrights in the compilation context, as well and trade dress rights in the product design context. It will likely be cited often by litigants and courts within the Circuit.
Craft Smith was represented by Maschoff Brennan attorneys R. Parrish Freeman, Charles J. Veverka, and Daniel R. Barber.
You can find the opinion here: https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/19/19-4087.pdf
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Maschoff Brennan provides legal counsel and representation to some of the world’s most innovative companies. With 45 attorneys and offices in the technology-focused regions of Utah and California, our attorneys are known for having the breadth of experience and the forward-thinking insight needed to handle complex technological and business issues across all industries and geographic boundaries. In addition, we have extensive experience representing clients before the ITC, PTAB, TTAB, and other administrative agencies in Washington D.C.