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The Second Circuit Avoids the

The Second Circuit Avoids the "Registration" Question

August 10, 2015

The Second Circuit Avoids the "Registration" Question

August 10, 2015

Back to Fish's Trademark and Copyright Blog

 

Although the Copyright Act explicitly provides that works must be registered before their owners can sue for infringement, the circuit courts have gradually adopted opposing interpretations of what exactly “registered” means. While some circuits do not permit copyright owners to sue until their work is officially registered with the Copyright Office, others allow owners to bring suit once their copyright application has been filed. The Second Circuit, however, has yet to articulate its position on the issue.

For example, last year, in A Star Group, Inc. v. Manitoba Hydro, KPMG LLP, a New York district court dismissed a claim of copyright infringement, pointing out that A Star Group’s copyright application was still pending at the time the company filed suit. The court explained, “[a]t the time of filing the current complaint…[A Star Group] only had a pending application for registration and therefore did ‘not satisfy the registration precondition of [the Copyright Act].'” A Star Group, Inc. v. Manitoba Hydro, KPMG LLP, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88825 (S.D.N.Y. June 30, 2014).

Although the Second Circuit ultimately affirmed the dismissal, it sidestepped the registration issue, relying instead on the plaintiff’s failure to state a claim for relief, and noting merely that “[o]ur Court has not yet determined, however, whether a merely pending application for registration satisfies the Act’s requirement that a work be registered before a related infringement suit is filed.” A Star Group, Inc. v. Manitoba Hydro, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 12920 (2d Cir. July 27, 2015).

While the circuit courts’ conflicting views on this topic may not be considered the hottest topic in copyright law, this issue has practical significance for copyright owners and their attorneys.  While we wait for clarity on this issue, copyright owners should obtain a registration before filing suit in an effort to avoid a motion to dismiss.


The opinions expressed are those of the authors on the date noted above and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fish & Richardson P.C., any other of its lawyers, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This post is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed.

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Kerrijane John | Associate

Kerrijane John focuses on trademark clearance and prosecution, brand management, and intellectual property enforcement and litigation. Her day-to-day practice also includes strategic counseling, domain name disputes, and social media takedowns. Kerrijane’s clients span various industries and range from emerging artists and start-ups to...

Fish & Richardson attorney Kristen McCallion
Kristen McCallion | Principal

Kristen McCallion is a Principal in the New York office of Fish & Richardson and Chair of the firm’s Copyright Group. Ms. McCallion represents businesses in the consumer products, Internet, media, and interactive entertainment industries in copyright, trademark, trade...

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