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Babybus loses bid for new trial after copyright infringement verdict for CoComelon

In a case that highlights the increasing prevalence of YouTube content for children, a jury found that one content creator had infringed the copyrights of another.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — One YouTube creator will owe another millions in damages for copyright infringement after losing an attempt this week to get a new trial.

The nearly $18 million verdict in the case — which pitted the U.S.- and U.K.-produced CoComelon channel against the Chinese-made Babybus brand — underscores the increasing role that YouTube plays in the media industry, including for children's content. CoComelon currently has 175 million subscribers on YouTube, while Babybus has more than 36 million.

U.S. Senior District Judge Edward Chen, an Obama appointee, on Wednesday denied creator Babybus’ bid for a new trial following a successful lawsuit from the creators of CoComelon.

A jury found BabyBus liable for infringing on CoComelon's trademarks with its "Super JoJo" brand. The company also lost a misrepresentation claim and will have to pay $17.7 million in damages to Moonbug Entertainment Limited and Treasure Studio, the creators behind CoComelon.

BabyBus subsequently filed post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial. But Chen, in a 53-page order, denied both motions, saying that clips and videos in evidence showed that BabyBus had violated copyrights on songs, characters and plots.

Attorneys for both sides did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Chen said that the defendants admitted that they copied elements from six CoComelon videos. Babybus, though, argued that no valid copyrights prevented the similarities between CoComelon’s JJ character and BabyBus’s JoJo character.

In response, Chen said that "even if certain allegedly copied elements are not protectable in themselves, a combination of them can support an infringement claim."

Chen also said there was substantial evidence showing similarities between the two children’s shows, from the appearance of the characters in question to certain songs and story elements. Many of Babybus’s SuperJoJo videos shared similarities in narrative, plot, theme, setting, mood and color with CoComelon’s videos. 

“There was evidence at trial that there were similarities in the family characters when looking at the protectable elements of JJ’s family characters, which especially included the family character relationships and interactions,” Chen added. “Evidence at trial also supports the jury’s finding of infringement of Moonbug’s video works."

Finally, the judge said he would not change the damages award to the CoComelon owners. He said the jury awarded damages below the maximum for which there was evidence.

“As noted above, BabyBus does not provide any authority to show a new trial is warranted when the jury finds a damages amount that is less than the evidence shows,” Chen said. The verdict of “$17.7 million as opposed to $19 million is not 'excessively speculative' enough to require rejection.”

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