Posted On: August 14, 2011

Lukasian House Sues Former Employees For Copyright Infringement, Trade Secret Misappropriation, and Computer Fraud And Abuse Act Violation

computer-fraud-abuse-trade-secrets-copyright-lukasian.jpgLukasian House supplies major retail chains with hand-made storage and organization products made of wood and fibers. Lukasian alleges that for over ten years it has built a database of “mom and pop” factories in rural China that reliably provide well-designed, high-quality hand-woven products. Major retail chains choose to work with Lukasian because it has a dependable source of products for timely delivery. Lukasian, naturally, keeps the identity of its suppliers a closely guarded secret by limiting disclosure to certain employees, maintaining it on a secure computer network, and instructing employees of the confidential nature of the information. Lukasian has also filed several copyright registration applications for photographs of samples of storage baskets and a hamper that it never published.

Aprille Vergara and Chen “Jane” Chen were former employees that allegedly had access to Lukasian’s trade secrets in performing their duties. In May of 2010, Vergara and Chen and other defendants allegedly accessed Lukasian’s server to download trade secrets to use in establishing a competing business. Shortly thereafter, Vergara and Chen resigned and allegedly falsely stated that the former intended to go back to school and the latter was to work with in her husband’s real estate business. Relying on the provided reasons, Plaintiff allowed Defendants to continue working and they’re accused of acquiring “knowledge of Lukasian’s suppliers, its customers, its best-selling items, the prices at which it buys and sells those items, and its profit margins on those items.” Defendants are accused of selling competing products to Lukasian’s customers and undercutting its prices.

Lukasian brings causes of action for copyright infringement (17 U.S.C. § 501(a)), computer fraud and abuse act violation (18 U.S.C. § 1030(g)), California comprehensive computer data access and fraud act (Cal. Penal Code § 502(c)), trade secret misappropriation (Cal. Civ. Code § 3426), unfair competition (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200), intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and conversion.

The case is Lukasian House, LLC v. Ample International, Inc., CV11-6449 JFW (C.D. Cal. 2011).

Posted On: August 1, 2011

Court: Disney/Pixar’s Cars Don’t Infringe Mandeville-Anthony’s Copyrights

judgment-pleadings-pixar-cars-disney.jpgThe race for Mandeville-Anthony was over before it even began. In March of this year, Plaintiff sued Disney and Pixar alleging that the Cars and Cars 2 animated motion pictures infringed his copyrights. Also, Plaintiff claimed that Disney and Pixar stole his idea for the motion pictures from his work that he submitted to Disney and Pixar employees.

Disney and Pixar quickly filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under FRCP 12(c), which means after the complaint, answer, counterclaims and reply, if any, are filed, a defendant can seek early judgment that – based on the pleadings alone – a plaintiff cannot meet its burden of proof. In a short one page opinion, the Court dismissed the copyright infringement claim because the parties’ works are not substantially similar as a matter of law: “[a]mong other things, the protectable elements of the parties’ respective works are dissimilar in plot, sequence of events, pace, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, and characters.” As to the second cause of action for breach of implied contract (aka idea submission), the Court found that the claim was untimely because it was filed after the applicable two-year statute of limitations. Cal. Code Civ. Pro. 339(1).

Reviewing Defendants’ motion shed’s light on the flimsy nature of Plaintiff’s allegations: “How Plaintiff can contend these characters [pictured here] are similar is mystifying. . . In short, the parties’ expressions of the general idea of animated, anthropomorphic cars are extremely different. Any suggestion that the parties’ characters are similar – let alone, substantially similar – would defy the Ninth Circuit’s exhortation that copyright law protects only the specific details of an author’s rendering of an idea, and not the idea itself.”

The Court agreed with Defendants’ contention that the statute of limitations period begins to run on the date defendants first began to use plaintiff’s idea without compensation. Because Cars was released in June 2006, Plaintiff’s complaint was filed about three years too late.

The case is Jake Mandeville-Anthony v. The Walt Disney Company, CV11-02137 VBF (C.D. Cal. 2011).