U.S. Supreme Court Grants Review in H&M Copyright Case


Palak Arora 04/06/21 #copyright #patent #trademarks #infringement #intellectualproperty #IPR #IPRinfo #IPRrights #Trademarkclickcom #IP #lawfirms #lawyers #legalmarketing #entrepreneur #IPRBlog #IPBlog #HM #HennesMauritz #Doniger #Burroughs #USSupremeCourt #Unicolors

The U.S. Supreme Court displayed its willingness to hear the decision for an appeal of a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision allowed H&M Hennes & Mauritz LP to escape a ruling that it is guilty of copyright infringement of Unicolors Inc’s copyright making inaccuracies in the fabric company’s copyright application as a base.

However, the high court will also weigh in while deciding the question: whether the 9th Circuit was correct in determining that evidence of fraud isn't required before invalidating a copyright registration based on inaccurate information in an application? Unicolors said that this decision created a circuit split and subsequently, countered Congressional intent.

"Statutory text, history, and plain common sense all weigh strongly against the idea that an honest mistake in a copyright registration form lets an infringer off the hook," Unicolors' attorneys said in a statement. The plaintiff was represented by attorneys Josh Rosenkranz of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Scott Burroughs of Doniger/Burroughs before the court. However, H&M on the other side declined to comment anything. Its attorney Staci Riordan of Nixon Peabody represented H&M in the court.

Unicolors sued H&M in Los Angeles federal court in the year 2016. It accused H&M clothing of infringing its copyright in a fabric design. A jury ruled in the favor of Unicolors in the year 2017 where it was awarded more than $800,000 in damages. U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte said, “I will grant H&M's motion for a new trial on damages in the year 2018 unless Unicolors accepts reducing the award to $266,000.” And accordingly, Unicolors accepted. Thus, the court also granted Unicolors $514,000 in fees and costs, and later H&M appealed where the award was reversed in the year 2020.

Unicolors approached the Supreme Court to review the decision in the month of January of 2021. However, the Supreme Court granted review on July 01, 2021. The review has been granted forUnicolors' question: “Whether the case requires referral to the Copyright Office where there is no indicia of fraud or material error?"

"No Circuit, including the Ninth, had ever before acknowledged a 'bundling' requirement. The 11th Circuit has held that deceptive intent is necessary to invalidate a copyright registration and that the relevant law – the PRO-IP Act – codified the doctrine of fraud on the Copyright Office. The PRO-IP Act was enacted to stop courts from invalidating copyright registrations based on immaterial registration errors. But the panel here did the opposite," Unicolors said.

Meanwhile, H&M was seen countering in an April brief that the 9th Circuit was right in deciding that an intent to defraud isn't necessary, and Unicolors had tried to defraud the Copyright Office regardless of their intentions.

The case can be reached with the name Unicolors Inc v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz LP, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 20-915.

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