Justia Copyright Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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SAS creates and sells software used for data access, management, analysis, and presentation. The SAS System allows users to input user-written programs into its graphical user interface to complete analytics tasks. Users write commands in SAS’s programming language. An earlier version of the SAS System is in the public domain. SAS has copyright registrations that cover various aspects of the SAS System. WPL created a competitor, the WPS System, which uses the SAS Language to allow users to run user-written programs to complete analytics tasks such as data access, management, analysis, and presentation. SAS sued WPL, alleging copyright infringement of the SAS System and SAS user manuals.The district court first concluded that SAS possessed valid copyright registrations covering SAS’s asserted software, then determined that WPL provided evidence that showed the software program elements were not within the scope of protection under copyright law. Applying the abstraction-filtration-comparison test, the district court determined that SAS failed to establish copyrightability.The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The court interpreted “copyrightability” as meaning whether the specific elements of a copyrighted work that are asserted in a copyright infringement action fall within the scope of protection extended to that particular work under copyright law. The district court acted properly in conducting a pretrial “Copyrightability Hearing.” View "SAS Institute, Inc. v. World Programming Ltd." on Justia Law

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In 2013, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command installed copyrighted graphics-rendering software created by German company Bitmanagement onto all computers in the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. No express contract or license agreement authorized the Navy’s actions. In 2016, Bitmanagement filed suit, alleging copyright infringement, 28 U.S.C. 1498(b). The Claims Court found that, while Bitmanagement had established a prima facie case of copyright infringement, the Navy was not liable because it was authorized to make copies by an implied license, arising from the Navy’s purchase of individual licenses to test the software and various agreements between the Navy and the vendor.The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded for the calculation of damages. The Claims Court ended its analysis prematurely by failing to consider whether the Navy complied with the terms of the implied license, which can readily be understood from the parties’ entire course of dealings. The implied license was conditioned on the Navy using a license-tracking software, Flexera, to “FlexWrap” the program and monitor the number of simultaneous users. The Navy failed to effectively FlexWrap the copies it made; Flexera tracking did not occur as contemplated by the implied license. That failure to comply creates liability for infringement. View "Bitmanagement Software GMBH v. United States" on Justia Law

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Lanard owns Design Patent D167 and the 458 copyright for a work entitled “Pencil/Chalk Holder,” relating to a toy chalk holder designed to look like a pencil. Lanard sold the Chalk Pencil, marked to indicate Lanard’s copyright and patent protections, to national retailers. Ja-Ru designed a toy chalk holder, using the Chalk Pencil as a reference sample. Lanard’s retailers stopped ordering the Chalk Pencil and began ordering Ja-Ru’s product. Lanard sued, asserting copyright infringement, design patent infringement, trade dress infringement, and statutory and common law unfair competition.The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment that Ja-Ru’s product does not infringe the patent, that the copyright is invalid and alternatively not infringed, and that Ja-Ru’s product does not infringe Lanard’s trade dress. Lanard’s unfair competition claims failed because its other claims failed. The district court properly construed the claims commensurate with the statutory protection for an ornamental design. Lanard impermissibly seeks to exclude any chalk holder in the shape of a pencil and extend the scope of the patent beyond the “new, original and ornamental design,” 35 U.S.C. 171. Lanard’s copyright is for the chalk holder itself; Lanard’s arguments seek protection for the dimensions and shape of the useful article itself. Because the chalk holder itself is not copyright protectable, Lanard cannot demonstrate that it holds a valid copyright. Lanard cannot establish that the Chalk Pencil has acquired secondary meaning. View "Lanard Toys Ltd. v. Dolgencorp LLC" on Justia Law

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Syngenta sued Willowood, a Hong Kong company that sells fungicide to its Oregon-based affiliate, for infringement of patents directed to a fungicide compound and its manufacturing processes and infringement of copyrights for detailed product labels that provide directions for use, storage, and disposal, plus first-aid instructions and environmental, physical, and chemical hazard warnings. The district court dismissed the copyright claims as precluded by the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. 135 and granted-in-part Syngenta’s summary judgment motion with respect to patent infringement. After a jury trial, the court entered a defense judgment on the patent claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part, reversed-in-part, and vacated in part. The district court did not provide an adequate analysis of the potential conflict between FIFRA and the Copyright Act. Because FIFRA does not, on its face, require a “me-too” registrant to copy the label of a registered product, FIFRA only conflicts with the Copyright Act to the extent that some particular element of Syngenta’s label is both protected under copyright doctrines and necessary for the expedited approval of Willowood’s generic pesticide. The court erred by imposing a single-entity requirement on the performance of a patented process under 35 U.S.C. 271(g); practicing a patented process abroad does not trigger liability under section 271(g) in the same manner that practicing a patented process domestically does under section 271(a). View "Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC v. Willowood, LLC" on Justia Law

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Oracle’s Java platform for computer programming allows programmers to write programs that “run on different types of computer hardware without having to rewrite them for each different type.” Java Application Programming Interface (API) is a collection of “pre-written Java source code programs for common and more advanced computer functions.” To include a particular function in a program, the programmer invokes the Java “declaring code,” and “implementing code,” which takes the input(s) and gives the computer step-by-step instructions to carry out the declared function. Oracle sued, alleging that Google’s unauthorized use of Oracle Java API packages in its Android operating system infringed Oracle’s copyrights, 17 U.S.C. 107(1). The Federal Circuit held that declaring code and the API packages' structure, sequence, and organization are entitled to copyright protection. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. At the second trial, Google prevailed on its fair use defense. The Federal Circuit reversed, concluding that Google’s use of the Java API packages was not fair as a matter of law, and remanded for a trial on damages. Google’s commercial use of the API packages weighs against a finding of fair use. Google merely copied the material and moved it from one platform to another without alteration, not a transformative use. Given the evidence of actual and potential harm, “unrestricted and widespread conduct of the sort engaged in by” Google would result in “a substantially adverse impact on the potential market for the original” and its derivatives. View "Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law