Enterprise Management Limited, Inc. v. Warrick

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright, Infringement
  • Date Filed: 05-21-2013
  • Case #: No. 12-1135
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 10169
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 2167657
  • Full Text Opinion

Organizational diagrams may be eligible for copyright protection if the idea is separable from the expression.

Opinion (O'Brien): Enterprise Management Limited ("Enterprise") and Mary Lippitt ("Lippitt") sued Warrick for copyright infringement regarding a diagram created in the field of organizational management. Prior to the Tenth Circuit's review, the district court had granted summary judgment to Warrick without issuing an opinion. Lippitt had created the diagram at issue in 1987, filing for a copyright at that time. The diagram was subsequently updated twice, once in 1996 and then again in 2000, which were both again registered in 2003. Warrick admitted receiving the diagram from a student, and began using it in his consulting business. After finding out the creator, he began to credit her at the bottom of the diagram. Before the Tenth Circuit, Warrick argued that the diagram expressed a "fundamental" idea about organizational change and development, and therefore should not be copyrightable because the idea is not separable from the expression. The court did not agree with this argument, and found that Warrick could have expressed the same idea in a different manner, thereby not infringing on Lippitt's copyright. Warrick also argued that the diagram did not contain the sufficient minimal creativity required for copyright protection. The court disagreed, stating that while the individual elements used to create the diagram may not be copyrightable, it is the combination of all of these elements and Lippitt's creative insight and choice of expression that makes the diagram worthy of protection. The judgment of the district court was REVERSED.

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