No Copyright Protection for Certain Furniture

On January 28, 2013, in Copyrights, by Brian A. Hall

UnIP (UnIntellectual Property): Copyright for Certain Furniture

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s Complaint that had primarily alleged copyright infringement, unfair competition, and trade dress infringement against Defendant.  Plaintiff is the designer and of high-end furniture,under the ANDRE JOYAU brand.  Defendant had used images of the furniture in its reality television show about pricey New York condos.  Plaintiff had specifically refused Defendant’s request to allow the furniture’s inclusion.  The furniture at issue included a Cocoon Chair, Cross Table, Form Table, Meshu Floor Lamp, Shimne Vase, Sylvan Floor Lamp, Yasu Floor Lamp, Z Stool, and Tate Chaise.  Plaintiff included a description for each piece of furniture, and in doing so, attempted to identify any non-functional aspects of it.

The Court ultimately found that Plaintiff had failed to allege ownership of a valid copyright in its furniture.  Cognizant of the United States Copyright Office’s rejection of Plaintiff’s application for copyright protection in the furniture pieces, the Court pointed out that Plaintiff failed to “distinguish clearly between physical and conceptual separability.”

Could the amended Complaint have been pled differently so as to withstand dismissal based upon failure to state a claim?  Would this Plaintiff had been better off not seeking copyright registration in light of the fact that the rejection all but sealed its fate in court?  Regardless, when it comes to copyright protection, separating function from expression is critically important.

Heptagon Creations Ltd. v. Core Group Marketing LLC, Pleskow & Rael Corp., and Thomas Rael, No. 12-317-cv (2d Cir. December 22, 2012).


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