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NewsAEWAEW & Luchasaurus’ Mask Lawsuit Lives On - Details

AEW & Luchasaurus’ Mask Lawsuit Lives On – Details

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The lawsuit between Luchasaurus’ mask and Composite Effects LLC lives on.

For those unaware, AEW and Luchasaurus are being sued by Composite Effects LLC. The company claims they are the makers of the mask and AEW has been merchandising it without their permission.

Back in April, AEW and Luchasaurus filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It has now been revealed that the motion has been denied.

You can check out the official ruling from the court below:

A. Copyright Violation

“To establish a claim for copyright infringement, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) he owns a valid copyright and (2) the defendant copied constituent elements of plaintiff’s work that are original.” Amazing Spaces, Inc. v. Metro Mini Storage, 608 F.3d 225, 251 (5th Cir.2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The second element requires both factual copying and substantial similarity. Id. In their motion to dismiss this claim, Defendant argue only that CFX has not plausibly alleged that the allegedly infringing works are substantially similar to CFX’s Copyrighted Work.

The touchstone of the “substantial similarity” analysis is a “side-by-side comparison . . . between the original and the copy to determine whether a layman would view the two works as substantially similar.” Nola Spice Designs, L.L.C. v. Haydel Enterp., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 550 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing Creations Unlimited, Inc. v. McCain, 112 F.3d 814, 816 (5th Cir. 1997)) (internal quotation omitted). Accordingly, the Fifth Circuit has explained that “the question of substantial similarity typically should be left to the factfinder[.]” Nola Spice, 783 F.3d at 550; see also Peter F. Gaito Architecture, LLC v. Simone Dev. Corp., 602 F.3d 57 (2d Cir. 2010) (“[Q]uestions of non-infringement have traditionally been reserved for the trier of fact.”). Only Case 2:22-cv-05351-EEF-MBN Document 30 Filed 05/16/23 Page 4 of 9 where the similarity between the two works concerns only non-copyrightable elements of the plaintiff’s work, which no party asserts is the case here, or where no reasonable jury could find that the two works are substantially similar should the Court resolve this issue without submission to a factfinder. See Peter F. Gaito Architecture, LLC v. Simone Dev. Corp., 602 F.3d 57 (2d Cir. 2010) (citing Warner Bros. Inc. v. Am. Broad. Cos., 720 F.2d 231, 240 (2d Cir. 1983)).

Here, CFX argues that it can easily be seen from the submitted photographs that the Luchasaurus Masks are simply reproductions of the major components of the Copyrighted Work, with some additional elements, such as horns, and some alterations, such as cutting out the mouth hole. CFX points specifically to the “intricate scaling pattern[,]” which it asserts is the “aesthetic focus of the design[,]” and remains essentially unchanged from the Copyrighted Work to the Luchasaurus Masks. Given that that “the question of substantial similarity typically should be left to the factfinder[,]” Nola Spice, 783 F.3d at 550, and given the evident visual similarity of the works in question, the Court cannot find that no reasonable jury could find that Defendants have violated CFX’s copyright. CFX’s claims are thus adequate to survive 12(b)(6) review.

B. LUTPA

Defendants argue first that CFX’s LUTPA claim must be dismissed because CFX fails to plausibly allege any copyright infringement. Because this Court has already held supra that CFX has plausibly alleged that Defendants violated its copyright, the Court need not address this argument a second time.

In the alternative, Defendants argue that CFX’s LUTPA claim is preempted by federal copyright law. The Copyright Act preempts state law claims that fall within the ambit of federal copyright law. 17 U.S.C. § 301(a). Courts in the Fifth Circuit employ a two-step test to determine if a claim is preempted by the Copyright Act. “First, the cause of action is examined to determine if it falls ‘within the subject matter of copyright.’ Second, the cause of action is examined to determine if it protects rights that are ‘equivalent’ to any of the exclusive rights of a federal copyright, as provided in 17 U.S.C. § 106.” Daboub v. Gibbons, 42 F.3d 285, 289 (5th Cir.1995) (internal citations omitted). Because the parties agree that this cause of action falls within the subject matter of copyright, the question of preemption depends on the second element of the two-step test: whether the rights are “equivalent”, commonly called the “extra element” test. First Am. Bankcard, Inc. v. Smart Bus. Tech., Inc., CV 15-638, 2016 WL 5869787, at *7 (E.D. La. Oct. 7, 2016) (citing Alcatel USA, Inc. v. DGI Technologies, Inc., 166 F.3d 772, 787 (5th Cir. 1999)). Under the extra element test, “[i]f one or more qualitatively different elements are required to constitute the state-created cause of action being asserted, then the right granted under state law does not lie within the general scope of copyright, and preemption does not occur.” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted).

The Fifth Circuit has held that a LUTPA claim is not preempted by federal copyright law, explaining that “[b]ecause a cause of action under the [LUTPA] requires proof of fraud, misrepresentation or other unethical conduct . . . the relief it provides is not ‘equivalent’ to that provided in the Copyright Act and, thus, it is not pre-empted.” Computer Mgmt. Assistance Co. v. Robert F. DeCastro, Inc., 220 F.3d 396, 404–05 (5th Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted). Defendants seek to distinguish Computer Mgmt. by arguing that nothing like the allegations of fraud, misrepresentation, or other unethical content which the Fifth Circuit found to provide the “extra element” sufficient to overcome Copyright Act preemption in that case are present here. But in addition to arguing violation of their copyright, CFX has pleaded that “Defendants engaged in deceitful and unethical conduct by misrepresenting their intentions and intentionally prolonging negotiations in a deceptive manner so [that they] could secure a third party to steal CFX’s designs[.]” At the 12(b)(6) stage, the Court finds that this is adequate to plausibly plead that CFX’s LUTPA claim is not preempted by federal copyright law.

C. Breach of Contract
Finally, Matelson seeks dismissal of CFX’s breach of contract claim, arguing that CFX has failed to plausibly allege the existence of a contract between them, or in the alternative because the claim is preempted by the Copyright Act.

Under Louisiana law, “[t]here must be a ‘meeting of the minds’ between the parties to make a contract enforceable.” Express Lien, Inc. v. Nationwide Notice, Inc., 2016 WL 7097382, at *4 (E.D. La. Dec. 5, 2016) (citation omitted). CFX has pleaded that Matelson entered into a sales contract with it pursuant to the terms and conditions regarding the licensing and usage of intellectual property on its website by purchasing the masks. However, Matelson points to Express Lien to argue that there was no meeting of the minds, and thus no contract formation, because Plaintiff does not allege that Matelson ever agreed to or was even aware of those terms and conditions, only that they were displayed on the CFX website.

In Express Lien, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s beach of contract claim, finding that the plaintiff’s allegation that by using plaintiff’s website the defendant had agreed to be bound by the terms and conditions on that website was inadequate to plead contract formation. However, Express Lien is easily distinguishable from this case: there, the plaintiff had accused the defendant of copying material from the plaintiff’s website and presenting it as the defendant’s own. The defendant was therefore alleged merely to have accessed and used the plaintiff’s website by copying it; there was no allegation that the defendant had purchased any good or service from the plaintiff’s website which would have bound it to that website’s terms and conditions. In this case, however, Matelson undeniably purchased masks from CFX, and is therefore bound by the terms and conditions of that sale. Accordingly, CFX had adequately pleaded the existence of a contract between itself and Matelson.

In the alternative, Matelson argues that Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim is preempted by the Copyright Act. As discussed supra, the Fifth Circuit employs a two-part test to determine whether the Copyright Act preempts a state law claim: (1) whether the claim is within the subject matter of copyright, and (2) whether the cause of action protects rights that are equivalent to any of the exclusive rights of federal copyright. See Spear Mktg., Inc. v. Bancorpsouth Bank, 791 F.3d 586, 594 (5th Cir. 2015) (internal citations omitted). The parties again do not contest that the contract claim is within the subject matter of copyright, but argue whether the rights CFX asserts in this claim are equivalent to the exclusive rights of federal copyright. “A right is equivalent if the mere act of reproduction, distribution, or display infringes it.” Taquino v. Teledyne Monarch Rubber, 893 F.2d 1488, 1501 (5th Cir. 1990). But where a breach of contract claim involves an element in addition to mere reproduction, distribution, or display— that is, where there was an alleged breach of a term of terms of the contract not limited to a copyright violation—the claim is not preempted by federal copyright law. See id. Here, CFX has alleged not just that Matelson breached the contract between the parties by violating CFX’s copyright, but also breached other contractual provisions including the illicit manufacture and sale of merchandise based of CFX’s products or designs. Accordingly, CFX has adequately pleaded that its breach of contract claim is not preempted by the Copyright Act in order to survive 12(b)(6) review.

V. CONCLUSION
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss, R. Docs. 24 and 25, are hereby DENIED

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