Innovative Legal Marketing, LLC v. Market Masters-Legal

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 02-13-2012
  • Case #: 2:10cv580
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Stillman
  • Full Text Opinion

As a general rule, copyright law does not protect scenes a faire, that are incidents, characters, or settings which, as a practical matter are indispensable or standard in the treatment of a given topic, and though an “ordinary” phrase may be quoted without fear of infringement, a copier may not quote or paraphrase the sequence of creative expression that includes such a phrase.

Innovative Legal Marketing (ILM) and defendant Market Masters-Legal (MML) asserted various copyright claims against one another. MML and ILM produced television advertisements for lawyers and law firms and further negotiated and managed placement of these advertisements on television stations. Under a license and service agreement, MML produced at least 57 customized advertisements for the law firm Parker Waichman Alonso (PWA), including one called “Big-Case” commercial incorporating material suggested by a partner at PWA. Even though MML produced customized advertisements using celebrity spokespersons, these advertisements were usually drawn from MML’s inventory of preexisting advertisements. PWA eventually terminated their agreement with MML and thereafter had ILM produce a new version of the “Big-Case” commercial using a different celebrity spokesperson. To establish a claim for copyright infringement, plaintiff must prove ownership of a valid copyright, and copying of constituent elements of the work that are original. Court concluded that MML had established ownership of a valid copyright in the “Big-Case” commercials and that there was significant similarity between the MML commercial and ILM’s “Big-Case” commercial. Therefore, court recommended that summary judgement be GRANTED to MML on their copyright infringement claim. The court also DENIED partial summary judgment on ILM’s assertion that MML’s “Big-Case” commercials produced under license for others, infringed on ILM’s copyright in the “Big-Case” script.
[Summarized by Binita Singh.]

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