Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Bell sued Vacuforce for copyright infringement, accusing it of publishing his photograph of the Indianapolis skyline on its website without a license. Vacuforce hired attorney Overhauser. The parties quickly settled; the federal lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice. Overhauser then moved to recover attorney fees from Bell, arguing that because the settlement produced a dismissal with prejudice, Vacuforce was the “prevailing party” for purposes of fees under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 505. The district court denied Overhauser’s as motion frivolous and misleading and ordered monetary sanctions against Overhauser: one under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and another under 28 U.S.C. 1927. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sanctions, rejecting an argument that a party can “prevail” for purposes of a fee-shifting statute by paying a settlement and obtaining a dismissal with prejudice. The district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing the section 1927 sanction. “Objective bad faith” will support such a sanction. A lawyer demonstrates objective bad faith when she “pursues a path that a reasonably careful attorney would have known, after appropriate inquiry, to be unsound.” The district court found that Overhauser’s legal contentions were baseless and that he failed to disclose the proper factual foundation necessary to evaluate his legal argument. View "Overhauser v. Bell" on Justia Law

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Fryer and the Alliance for Water Efficiency collaborated on a study about drought. The Alliance worked on funding. Fryer circulated a draft of the report. The Alliance expressed concern with the methodology and sued Fryer under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101. Under a settlement Fryer agreed to turn over his data from public utilities in exchange for $25,000. If any utility had disclosed data with a confidentiality agreement, the Alliance was required to secure a release. Each party could publish a report, but could not acknowledge the other’s involvement. The parties have litigated ever since. The district court concluded that the Alliance was entitled to specific data and that Fryer was bound by the settlement to refrain from acknowledging disputed organizations unless they contacted him first and asked to be recognized. The judge required the Alliance to provide those organizations with Fryer’s contact information. The Seventh Circuit reversed solely on the acknowledgment issue. Fryer returned to the district court, seeking restitution for injuries caused by the court’s erroneous injunction and attorney’s fees under section 505 of the Copyright Act for having prevailed in the first appeal. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of both motions. Fryer does not present genuine claims for restitution; he seeks to relitigate unrelated claims for breach of the settlement. He did not prevail on the Alliance’s copyright claim. View "Alliance for Water Efficiency v. Fryer" on Justia Law

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The initial six-month agreement between LimeCoral and CareerBuilder specified that all graphic designs created for CareerBuilder would constitute the exclusive property of CareerBuilder and said nothing about renewal fees. After six months, LimeCoral continued to prepare media files incorporating custom graphic designs, typically receiving $3,000 for each new design. As there was no longer a written agreement transferring ownership of the copyright, LimeCoral retained ownership and implicitly granted CareerBuilder a license to use the designs. CareerBuilder argued the license was unconditional and irrevocable; LimeCoral claimed it was subject to CareerBuilder’s alleged agreement to pay an annual renewal fee for every design that CareerBuilder continued to use. LimeCoral sued, alleging breach of copyright and breach of an alleged oral agreement to pay an annual renewal. The district court granted CareerBuilder summary judgment, finding that CareerBuilder had an irrevocable, implied license to use LimeCoral’s designs that was not conditioned upon any agreement to pay LimeCoral renewal fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There was no evidence that would permit the factfinder to conclude that there was an agreement between LimeCoral and CareerBuilder that LimeCoral would be paid a fee for each renewal, and that the implied license LimeCoral granted to CareerBuilder to use the job brandings was subject to that agreement. View "LimeCoral, Ltd. v. CareerBuilder, LLC" on Justia Law

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Design Basics claims rights to about 2700 home designs and sued Lexington for copyright infringement, contending that Lexington built homes that infringed four Design Basics’ designs. The district court granted Lexington summary judgment, finding no evidence that Lexington ever had access to Design Basics’ home plans. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Design Basics has no evidence of access and stating that no reasonable jury could find that Lexington’s accused plans bear substantial similarities to any original material in Design Basics’ plans. The court noted that its owner acknowledged in his deposition that “potential copyright infringement cases influence[d his] decision to become an owner of Design Basics.” He testified that proceeds from litigation have become a principal revenue stream for Design Basics. “Design Basics’ business model of trawling the Internet for intellectual property treasures is not unique.” View "Design Basics, LLC v. Lexington Homes, Inc." on Justia Law