Furniture Copyright Infringement Lawsuit May Be Subject To Useful Article Defense

furniture-copyright-useful-article-attorney-marge-carson.jpgLos Angeles, CA – Marge Carson, Inc.’s furniture copyright infringement case, originally filed in North Carolina, has been transferred to the Central District of California via stipulation of the parties after a jurisdictional spat. Now that the procedural issues have been addressed, the focus can turn the substance of Marge’s purported copyrights in the furniture. Marge claims that as early as 2003, it has “offered furniture under one or more of its Bordeaux™, Les Marches™, Pacifica™, Palladian™, Perugia™, Segovia™, Umbria™ and Vouvray™ collections (the “Furniture Collections”).”

Defendant Philippe Langdon Furniture, Inc. is accused of selling “furniture collections that include items bearing designs substantially similar to the copyrighted designs existing upon Plaintiff’s Furniture Collections, which are the subject of currently pending federal copyright applications.” Unfortunately for Plaintiff, it waited until 2010 and after Defendant’s alleged infringement commenced to file copyright applications.

Despite its delay, Plaintiff seeks attorneys’ fees and costs that are only available – per 17 U.S.C. § 412 – if the copyright application was filed before the infringement began or within three months of first publication. As a further hurdle, which timely copyright registration would have avoided, Plaintiff is not entitled to prima facie evidence of copyright validity because its application was not filed within five years of first publication per 17 U.S.C. § 410(c). But even before getting to those hurdles, Plaintiff is going to have to establish that it is entitled to copyright protection because copyright protection does not extend to “useful articles”, such as furniture designs. Design patents, however, do protect furniture designs, but must be filed within one year from the date of public disclosure.

The case is Marge Carson, Inc. v. Philippe Langdon Furniture, Inc., CV11-04202 PSG (C.D. Cal. 2011).