Originality in Copyright
by Pamela Chestek • October 24, 2008 • copyright
I blogged here about the defendant’s attack on the validity of an assignment and registration in Tacori Enterprises v. Rego Manufacturing. As a refresher, there were two parties that participated in the design of a ring, Haig Tacorian, acting as the President of Tacori Enterprises, and Garo Karounian, a designer for his sole proprietorship Anais Fine Jewelry Manufacturing.
In addition to the attacks on the assignment and registration, accused infringer Rego Manufacturing also argued that the work wasn’t copyrightable because it wasn’t original.
Originality encompasses two concepts: that a work was independently created by the author (i.e., the author didn’t copy) and that the work has a minimal degree of creativity. Rego’s expert opined that the ring design was just a reworking of similar and identical designs that had existed for thousands of years. He identifyed a bracelet design by Saara Hopea-Untracht in particular, saying “Without any stretch of the imagination, it easily appears that her jewelry was the prototype for the design that Tacori submitted to the Copyright Office. One cannot look at this artist’s work and not conclude that the Tacori rings are derivatives of the Untracht design.” In response, Tacori offered detailed evidence on how Karounian and Tacorian developed the design and submitted declarations that they did not base the design on any other works, were not aware of any similar works, and had not seen the jewelry in defendant Rego’s expert report.
Rego’s argument wasn’t good enough to survive summary judgment. The Tacori design was sufficiently different from the designs in the expert report to have the requisite level of originality; further, the expert’s conclusion that the Tacori work was not independently created wasn’t enough to raise an issue of material fact since Rego had no evidence rebutting Tacorian’s and Karounian’s statements that they had not seen the works in the expert declaration. The ring design was copyrightable.
Tacori Enter. v. Rego Mfg., Civ. No. 1:05cv2241, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73686 (D. Ohio Sept. 25, 2008)
© 2008 Pamela Chestek