Louisiana Contractors Licensing Service, Inc. v. American Contractors Exam Services, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright, Copyright Infringement
  • Date Filed: 04-07-2014
  • Case #: 12-560-JJB-RLB
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47658
  • Westlaw Citation: not yet available
  • Full Text Opinion

Copyrighted exam questions were reproduced and marketed without permission from the holder of the copyright, but the infringement was de minimis and was therefore not actionable.

Opinion (Brady): Plaintiff, Louisiana Contracting Licensing Services, Inc., is a Louisiana Corporation that produces preparation materials geared toward State licensing exams for contractors. Defendant, American Contractors Exam Services, Inc., is a Tennessee corporation that also produces contractor State licensing exam preparation materials. Plaintiff argued that Defendant used 14 of its copyrighted sample exam questions. Plaintiff alleged that it did not give Defendant permission to “‘reproduce, publish, distribute copies of, publicly perform, display, or prepare derivative works based on all or any portion of the Plaintiff's copyrighted sample exam questions.’” Pursuant to factual allegations, Plaintiff claimed sole ownership of the copyrighted sample exam questions. Based on Defendant’s conduct, Plaintiff claimed Defendant deliberately and willfully violated Plaintiff’s copyright. Defendant moved for summary judgment and claimed that Plaintiff could not establish the necessary elements of copyright infringement. The Court applied the two traditional elements of copyright infringement. As to the first element, the Court held that although the 14 questions were identical, regarding the second element, the infringement was de minimis; meaning the copyright infringement did not warrant the imposition of legal consequences. Because the infringement was trivial, the infringement was not actionable. The Plaintiff’s exam includes 1,083 copyrighted multiple-choice questions. Even assuming that Defendant copied 14 sample exam questions, 14 questions only constituted 1.3% of the total copyrighted material on the exam. Further, there was no evidence that the 14 questions were more important than the other copyrighted exam question. Motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants was GRANTED and all of Plaintiff’s motions were DENIED.

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