USDC C.D. Illinois, January 6, 2010

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  • In copyright infringement action relating to sculptures used on a basket, court denies defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law or new trial after the jury awarded all of defendant’s profits to plaintiff as damages, despite the fact that the district court had determined as a matter of law that three of the sculptures on the basket were not infringing, holding that the jury could have reasonably concluded that the infringing works sold because of the infringing designs and, therefore, all of the profits were attributable to the infringement.

A jury returned a verdict that defendant Things Remembered, Inc. willfully infringed plaintiff Design Ideas, Ltd.’s copyrights for its Petals Sculptures and Selection of three Petals sculptures designs by copying them on Things Remembered’s product, the Flower Candle Basket. At trial, Design Ideas sought disgorgement of Things Remembered’s profits as a remedy for the infringement. The injured party in an infringement case is entitled to seek disgorgement of the infringer’s profits attributable to the infringement. 17 U.S.C. § 504(b). Design Ideas’ expert testified that Things Remembered made $774,194.00 in profits on the sales of the Baskets and $492,727.00 in profits on the services provided to engrave messages on the Baskets. The jury awarded damages in the sum of $774,194.00, which was the full amount of profits from the sales of the Baskets.

In one of two post-trial motions, Things Remembered requested a new trial on damages, arguing that the damages award was excessive because: (1) the court determined as a matter of law that three of the flower sculptures on the Basket did not infringe on any of the three Petals designs or the Selection; and (2) Things Remembered presented evidence that the sales of the Baskets were attributable to aspects of the Basket that did not infringe, such as the heart shape, the candles, and the engraving plate.

The court declined to “upset the jury’s award of profits when there is a reasonable basis in the record to support the award.” The court held that the jury could have reasonably concluded that the Baskets sold because of the infringing designs and, therefore, all of the profits were attributable to the infringement.

The court also denied Things Remembered’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on non-infringement and a concurrent motion by Design Ideas for judgment as a matter of law awarding it the engraving profits, again refusing to upset the jury’s verdict based on evidence supporting the jury’s determinations.