Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Akanoc Solutions

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-09-2011
  • Case #: 10-15909; 10-16015
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Chief Judge Kozinski and Circuit Judge Hawkins
  • Full Text Opinion

When determining statutory damages under 17 U.S.C. § 504(c) and 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c) against defendants found joint and severally liable, the court may only award once for each contributory infringement, such that the plaintiff's damages for each infringement will not be multiplied by the number of defendants.

Louis Vuitton sued Ackanoc Solutions, Inc. and Managed Solutions Group (“MSG”) for hosting websites “selling goods that . . . infringed on its copyrights and trademarks,” as well as Steven Chen who acted as manager for both businesses. At trial, “the jury awarded $10,500,000 in statutory damages . . . against each defendant.” All three “defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law,” but only MSG's motion was granted. Ackanoc and Chen appealed the denials of their motions along with issues regarding jury instructions and damages. Louis Vuitton further cross-appealed “the district court's order . . . in favor of MSG.” The Court refused to consider Ackanoc’s and Chen's appeals of their denials of judgments as a matter of law, as their briefs failed to present the issue properly. In regards to the jury instructions, the Court held there was no need to “distinguish between servers or services provided by Appellants and the websites maintained by Appellants' customers” in order to “define the scope of the 'means of infringement,'” because “Appellants had control over the 'master switch' that kept the websites online and available.” Further, the instructions properly defined the term “counterfeit mark,” stating that neither “an express finding of intent” nor “an express finding of material contribution” is required to satisfy claims of contributory infringement. Finally, the Court found it was proper to award statutory damages “against contributory infringers” because 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c) “does not require defendants to 'use . . . [the] . . . mark' . . . It applies so long as the 'case involves such use.” However, in awarding such damages under 17 U.S.C. § 504(c) and 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c), Louis Vuitton was entitled to only one award per infringement from all defendants joint and severally. VACATED AND REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS.

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