Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Ltd. P'ship

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright, Fair Use
  • Date Filed: 12-17-2013
  • Case #: 12-2543
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States Court of Appeals 4th Circuit
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 25001
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 6617327
  • Full Text Opinion

Fair use was found when a copyrighted logo was used in a limited manner in a movie about football's history.

Opinion (Wilkinson): Fredrick Bouchat ("Bouchat") appealed the circuit court's grant of a motion for summary judgment filed by the Baltimore Ravens Ltd. Partnership ("Ravens") and the National Football League ("the NFL"). At issue was the Ravens' use of a logo that resembled one that Bouchat designed and copyrighted. After litigation regarding the logo, the Ravens stopped using it on their uniforms. In the instant case, Bouchat brought an action after the logo appeared in three films about the Ravens' history, produced by the Ravens and the NFL, showed the logo on the players' uniforms briefly while showing footage from the Ravens' 1997 season. Bouchat further claimed that the Ravens infringed on his copyright because the logo appeared in a memorabilia timeline in their stadium. In determining whether the Ravens use of the logo was fair, the court considered (1) whether the nature of the use was commercial or non-profit in nature; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount used in proportion to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect the use has on the potential market. The court weighed the first factor heavily, statin that because the Ravens and the NFL used the logo briefly to document events in the history of football, that they had transformed the logo from its original use of identifying players on the field. Also, even though the movies that the logo appeared in were designed for commerical gain, the logo's contribution to that gain was de minimus. Further, the other three factors supported this conclusion. Accordingly, the court GRANTED summary judgment on behalf of the Ravens and the NFL, finding fair use.

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