Molinelli-Freytes v. University of Puerto Rico

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 09-30-2012
  • Case #: 09-1655
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Domínguez
  • Full Text Opinion

An original manuscript created by employees while performing duties that are within the scope of their employment may be used by the employer without violating the 1976 Copyright Act.

Opinion (Domínguez): José Molinelli–Freytes and Lillian Bird–Canals (collectively, “Molinelli-Bird”) created a proposal for a new academic program while under the employment of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) as a professor and a program director. Molinelli-Bird argued that this program was created outside the scope of their employment, as there was no written agreement between Molinelli-Bird and UPR, and the ordinary duties of a professor and program director do not include the design and creation of a new program. However, the court found that the work-for-hire doctrine was applicable and that the creation of the program was of the kind of work Molinelli-Bird were hired to perform. Molinelli-Bird then asserted that, even if the work for hire doctrine was applicable, that UPR’s IP policy constituted valid transfer of ownership to Molinelli-Bird. The court found, however, that because the work for hire doctrine was applicable, any work done by Molinelli-Bird, unless expressly disclaimed by writing between the parties, was the property of UPR. Therefore, the court GRANTED UPR’s motion for Summary Judgment.

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