Fort Wayne; IN – The Northern District of Indiana has granted a partial summary judgment for Forks RV of Shipshewana, Indiana that dismisses copyright infringement claims in a dispute over a recreational vehicle sales agreement and design. Copyright attorneys for Amy and James Ortega had filed a lawsuit against Forks RV of Shipshewana, Indiana alleging that Fork breached a sales distribution agreement and also alleged copyright infringement over Fork’s use of Ortega’s designs for a custom RV. The court summarily dismissed the copyright infringement claim because Ortega had not registered his designs with the U.S. Copyright Office. The court noted “The Copyright Act states that “no civil action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title.” 17 U.S.C. § 411(a).
The court, however, denied summary judgment on the breach of contract claim relating to the distribution and/or sales agreement. The court found that there was a genuine dispute of material fact, and therefore, summary judgment would be inappropriate.
Practice Tip: Copyright attorneys for Fork had requested attorney’s fees in defending the copyright infringement claim. The court granted this request, noting that . There is a strong presumption that the “prevailing party” in a copyright infringement case is entitled to recover attorney’s fees in the 7th Circuit, and that a copyright registration must be obtained before pursing an infringement claim (in most instances). Thus, plaintiffs must take care to register their copyrights before filing a copyright infringement suit, at the peril of being liable for the defendant’s attorney’s fees.