USDC S.D. Iowa, November 14, 2008

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A federal district court judge granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim as it pertains to damages because the plaintiff did not obtain copyright registration for his work, but the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction because, according to the court, copyright registration is not required for a court to enjoin a defendant from continuing infringement.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant infringed a patent and copyright in the design of the plaintiff’s watercraft and filed suit for, among other things, copyright and patent infringement. The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff did not have a patent or a registered copyright in his design. In opposing the defendant’s motion, the plaintiff argued that the court should exercise jurisdiction even absent the issuance of a patent, and afford protection for provisional and patent pending applications because the patent process is long, onerous and complex. The plaintiff also argued that dismissal of his copyright claim was not warranted because his design for a “Universal Depth Boat” is entitled to federal common law copyright protection.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments and granted in part the defendant’s motion to dismiss. Specifically, the court granted the motion to dismiss the patent infringement claim and the copyright infringement claim for damages, but allowed the plaintiff’s claim for a preliminary injunction to proceed.

Relying on Eighth Circuit case law, the court stated that “section 502 of the Copyright Act empowers a district court to enjoin further infringement of a copyright, and that power is not limited to registered copyrights. Olan Mills v. Linn Photo Co., 23 F.3d 1345, 1349 (8th Cir. 1994). ‘When a copyright owner has established a threat of continuing infringement, the owner is entitled to an injunction regardless of registration.’ Id. (citations omitted).”

The court held that it has jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief in connection with its copyright infringement claim, but not its request for monetary damages.