Muromura v. Rubin Postaer & Assocs.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright, Infringement
  • Date Filed: 05-31-2013
  • Case #: CV 12-09263 DDP (AGRx)
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court for the Central District of California
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77238
  • Full Text Opinion

In order for infringement to be found, works need to have extrinsic substantial similarity.

Opinion (Pregerson): Sachiko Muromura ("Muromura") creates artistic works using magnetic fluid (“ferrofluid”). Muromura made ferrofluid sculptures and took photos and videos of the sculptures. One such creation, entitled “Protrude Flow, 2001,” was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Muromura sued Rubin Postaer and Associates (“RPA”), an advertising agency that worked for the American Honda Motor Company (“Honda”) alleging that the ferrofluid art used in the advertisements was substantially similar to her copyrighted work. RPA assured Muromura that her work was not featured in the advertisement, but offered Muromura a $10,000 “creative consultant fee.” Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging RPA and Honda reproduced images or a series of images copied or derived from Protrude Flow, 2001. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint. To state a claim for copyright infringement, a plaintiff must allege (1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original. In the case at hand, Muromura did not suggest RPA made an exact copy of her work. She claimed the artwork contained images or a series of images that were substantially similar to the internet and television advertisements. Muromura did not identify the protectable elements to which she referred in the complaint, and did not prove that the works were extrinsically substantially similar. An idea alone is not copyrightable, nor are "elements of expression that necessarily follow from an idea." Because Muromura did not identify with specificity the allegedly infringing elements of RPA’s advertisements, the court GRANTED RPA's motion to dismiss.

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