Court Schools Macy’s|on Copyright Law

     (CN) – The 9th Circuit on Wednesday revived a copyright action accusing Macy’s of selling fabric designs registered as an “unpublished collection” to United Fabrics International, noting that Macy’s misunderstood the requirements of its defense.

     The federal appeals panel in Pasadena, Calif. reversed a district court’s finding that United Fabrics had failed to prove that it owned a valid copyright for its “Ethnic Collection X” series of designs.
     Not only do United Fabrics’ designs meet the criteria under federal law for registration as an unpublished collection, but the three-judge panel also found that Macy’s – and the district court – did not understand that it was required to provide evidence to rebut the presumption that United held a valid copyright and not the other way around.
     To support Macy’s argument that United did not have a valid copyright for the designs, which United Fabrics said it purchased from a Italian design house, Macy’s counsel “did nothing more than contend that United failed to provide evidence of the transfer,” the ruling states.
     “By repeatedly mentioning that United provided ‘no evidence,’ we are skeptical that Macy’s understands that it bears the burden of providing ‘some evidence’ of invalidity,” wrote Judge J. Clifford Wallace for the three-judge panel. “Regardless, Macy’s cites no authority that such facts rebut the presumption of copyright validity.”
     The panel was likewise unconvinced by the district court’s holding that United Fabrics’ copyright registration was invalid because the company had failed to register the fabric designs in a single copyright.
     The Ethnic Collection X is not a published single work under copyright law, the panel found. Rather, it meets the criteria for an unpublished collection.
     “Registration of an unpublished ‘collection’ extends to each copyrightable element in the collection and to the authorship, if any, involved in selecting and assembling the collection,” Wallace wrote.
     “Because it appears Ethnic Collection X meets the criteria [for an unpublished collection] we conclude, at this stage of the litigation, that United has registered a valid copyright in an unpublished collection of works.”

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