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Court Rejects Copyright Claim Against Schools

(CN) - A former classroom assistant failed to meet the prerequisites for filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Indianapolis Public Schools over their use of an educational program she developed, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Angela Brooks-Ngwenya developed a program called "TIRS," short for Transitioning Into Responsible Students, to help struggling students at Gambold Middle School.

The Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) allegedly promised to buy TIRS and hire her as a permanent classroom coordinator if the program succeeded. However, the schools declined the program and refused to give Brooks-Ngwenya a job. She said they continued to use TIRS after she was fired in 2003.

She filed a racial discrimination suit against IPS in 2004, which was settled and dismissed. She then filed a copyright and trademark infringement action and resurrected her employment discrimination claims, despite relinquishing those claims in the settlement.

The district court ruled for IPS, noting that the plaintiff's application for a copyright had been rejected by the Copyright Office. It added that the discrimination claims were precluded by the settlement.

The federal appeals court in Chicago affirmed, concluding that Brooks-Ngwenya "did not prove or try to prove that IPS copied any of the materials protected by her copyright." The court explained that she can still sue for infringement, even if her application was rejected.

Finally, the court agreed that the discrimination claims were barred by the settlement.

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