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One LLP Secures Landmark $6.3 Million Jury Verdict — The Largest Maximum Statutory Damages Verdict for Photography Infringement in U.S. History

John Tehranian Recent News

LOS ANGELES (December 18, 2023) – One LLP, a California intellectual property and entertainment law firm, obtained a groundbreaking $6.3 million jury verdict on behalf of architectural photographer Scott Hargis against Pacifica Senior Living Management LLC, who willfully infringed upon 42 of Hargis’ images.

“The jury’s verdict is not just a victory for Scott Hargis, but also holds broader societal significance for all creatives by affirming the gravity with which the law will treat willful violations of copyrights and by encouraging responsible business practices in the digital age, ”said lead attorney John Tehranian, Founding Partner at One LLP. “The verdict highlights the importance for photographers to proactively protect their creative assets by registering their works and tracking usage so that they can establish the strongest foundation for legal recourse when faced with infringement.” Along with Tehranian, the trial team included litigators Taylor Foss, Leo Lichtman and Chris Skinner, who all played instrumental roles in securing the landmark verdict.

One LLP worked in partnership with the world’s leading copyright licensing compliance service, ImageRights International, Inc., on the case. Joe Naylor, Co-Founder and CEO of ImageRights said, “People brazenly use photos without permission, disregarding creators’ rights. When we sought to settle this issue, we were met with dismissiveness and further infringement. We are thankful for One LLP’s tireless efforts in getting justice and compensation for our client, and will continue our fight to pursue infringers.”

Case Background and Damages

The Plaintiff, Scott Hargis, is a widely recognized architectural photographer; the Defendant, Pacifica Senior Living, the thirteenth largest care provider in the United States, owns and operates multiple senior living facilities throughout the nation. Pacifica, without consent or license, used 42 of Hargis’s images to market and advertise its senior living communities.

Despite repeated attempts to settle with Pacifica and notices to Pacifica regarding its acts of infringement, Pacifica continued to use Hargis’ images, even after the filing of the lawsuit. Although a large and sophisticated corporation with legal counsel and full knowledge of federal copyright law, Pacifica continued to make new unauthorized uses long after it had been apprised of Hargis’ rights.

There are three categories of infringement: innocent, regular and willful, each carrying a different range of statutory damages depending on the perceived severity. In this case, the jury deemed all 42 infringements as willful and assessed against Pacifica the absolute maximum statutory damages per infringement allowed by law: $150,000 per image, totaling $6.3 million.

Download the press release here.

Read the full complaint here.

Federal Circuit Affirms One, LLP. Jury Verdict in Patent Case

Federal Circuit Affirms One, LLP. Jury Verdict in Patent Case

The Federal Circuit on Tuesday upheld a California jury’s finding that crosswalk signal maker Campbell Co. willfully infringed rival Polara Engineering’s patent, but the appellate court erased a $1 million enhanced damages award after concluding it wasn’t fully explained by the lower judge.

The circuit panel agreed with the jury’s June 2016 decision that Polara’s patent wasn’t invalidated by prior art or the fact that the company tested out the system publicly more than a year before submitting its patent application. But the panel took issue with U.S. District Judge Douglas F. McCormick’s March 2017 decision to enhance the jury’s $653,841 damage award by $1 million for willful infringement. The judge’s decision lacked reasoning and also ignored the fact Campbell made a reasonable case for public use invalidation, Tuesday’s precedential opinion said.

Law360 quotes “The district court awarded almost the maximum amount of enhanced damages, but did not adequately explain its basis for doing so, and failed to even mention Campbell’s public use defense, which presented a close question in this case,” the appellate panel wrote, remanding the case with instructions for the judge “to provide a more complete explanation” of the decision.

Read full article

Larry Hilton and Molly Magnuson Obtain a Complete Defense Verdict

Larry Hilton and Molly Magnuson Obtain a Complete Defense Verdict

Attorneys Larry Hilton & Molly Magnuson obtained a complete defense verdict after a multi-week jury trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Driven Brands, Inc. and Econo Lube N’ Tune, LLC.  Plaintiffs in the case alleged both contract and fraud-based claims against Driven Brands and Econo Lube concerning a Meineke Car Care Centers/Econo Lube N’ Tune franchise.  The jury returned a defense verdict on all claims view here.  Larry Hilton was the lead trial counsel, while Molly Magnuson also had a key role in the trial.  Joanne Ardalan handled much of the pre-trial and discovery along with paralegal Lauren Thomas and intern Madison Allan.

William O’Brien Addresses the Uncertain Boundaries of the Copyright Law with Respect to “Useful Articles”

The Intellectual Property Law Section of the California State Bar recently published One LLP Partner William O’Brien’s “Copyright Commentary” column in the Spring 2016 edition of its magazine New Matter.  In a commentary entitled, “Policing the Boundaries of Copyright: Is It Time for the Supreme Court to Step In?,” Bill points out the uncertainty that has been created by conflicting decisions in U.S. Courts of Appeals about when features of useful articles—ranging from clothing to cars—can be protected by copyrights rather than by other forms of intellectual property, like utility or design patents, that are more carefully tailored for that purpose.  Bill points out the important practical effects of applying copyrights to useful articles, such the much longer term of protection for copyrights and protection of features that would not meet patent-law requirements for novelty and non-obviousness.

To illustrate the present uncertainly in copyright law, Bill points out that ten different legal standards have been proposed for determining when “pictorial, graphic or sculptural” features of a useful object should be considered sufficiently separable from the object itself to qualify for copyright protection.  He says that, amidst this uncertainty, “some courts are now extending copyright protection to features whose separability from a useful article is questionable at best.”  For example, Bill cites decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit saying that two cars—the Batmobile and the yellow Ford featured in the movie Gone in Sixty Seconds—could be given copyright protection as “characters.”  On that basis, the Circuit upheld a copyright infringement judgment against an auto replicator who had waited for the Batmobile’s design patents to expire before making a replica.  Bill also discusses a recent decision in which the Sixth Circuit held that the ornamental details of a cheerleading uniform were separate from the uniform’s “utilitarian function” of covering the body and could be protected by copyright.

Pointing up the lack of predictability in the present copyright law, Bill contrasts the recent Ninth Circuit decisions protecting cars as characters with a much earlier Ninth Circuit decision that denied copyright protection to the character Sam Spade from the book The Maltese Falcon.  He says, “It is hard to understand denying character status to Sam Spade—memorably played by Humphrey Bogart—but granting it to a souped-up yellow Ford.”

Bill predicts that the present uncertainty is likely to be accelerated by ongoing trends in media and technology, such as “convergence between physical products and works of authorship” and “improved interactivity and artificial intelligence,” which “will lead to even more opportunities to construe machines as ‘characters.’”  He asks, “Is Apple’s Siri personal assistant program a ‘character’—with her own voice, mannerisms, and even jokes, which make her far more human-like than the Batmobile?  If so, can Apple’s interactive technology—or even the iPhones that use it—be protected for 95 years under the Copyright Act?”  Bill concludes that, “Absent Supreme Court intervention, there is no clear limit to the expansion of copyright protection for product designs.”

Read full article.

John Lord Speaks at Port of Los Angeles Trade Connect Program on Legal Do’s and Don’ts

Partner John Lord presents at the “Legal Do’s and Don’ts” session of the Port of Los Angeles Advanced Trade Connect program on exporting. The program, held on May 19 at Phoenix University, is hosted by the Port of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

Trade Connect offers a series of workshops at a range of levels, from the basics involved in exporting to advanced workshops targeted at helping export companies effectively add or expand export activities. The program provides presentation by subject matter experts, information about sources for research, and references to a wide range of public and professional support resources.

One LLP Partners Nate Dilger and Chris Arledge Secure Complete Victory and Awarded Full Royalty Damages for Client in Patent Infringement Lawsuit

Yesterday, a federal jury handed One LLP and its client Polara Engineering a complete victory in its long-running patent infringement lawsuit against Polara’s competitor Campbell Company. The patent at issue related to accessible pedestrian crosswalk systems, which are specially designed systems that provide multiple audible, visual, and vibro-tactile indications to allow pedestrians – including those having visual or hearing impairments – to safely navigate pedestrian crosswalks. The lawsuit had been pending for over three years prior to the 9-day jury trial in Orange County Federal District Court. After closing arguments, the jury spent less than a day deliberating before returning its verdict, rejecting each of Campbell’s invalidity challenges, which included anticipation, obviousness, and prior use defenses. The jury also rejected Campbell’s enforceability defense based on alleged inequitable conduct. For Polara, the jury agreed that Campbell’s infringement of the Polara patent was indeed willful and awarded Polara the full measure of its claimed reasonable royalty damages.

One LLP partners Nate Dilger and Chris Arledge were trial counsel for Polara. The case is captioned Polara Engineering, Inc. v. Campbell Company, Case No.: SACV 13-00007 DFM.

A Practical Guide to Music Licensing: Burgundy Morgan Authors Article in Intellectual Property Magazine

Licensing music is a prominent way that artist, songwriters, producers, record labels and music publishers generate revenue from the music they own. Copyright owners of the music must properly license the music for use in film, television, or any other commercial application.

In the Intellectual Property Magazine article “A Practical Guide to Music Licensing,” One LLP Attorney Burgundy Morgan provides detailed insights into the two distinct licenses copyright owners can grant giving the necessary rights for use of their work and the differences between the two licenses. “Copyrighted music can generate a significant income for rights owners, but they have to secure two different licenses first,” says Ms. Morgan.

Ms. Morgan also outlines licensing scenarios for recordings and musical compositions to better explain the differences in a master-use license and a synchronization license. Ms. Morgan proceeds to explain the importance of clearing a musical composition and sound recording “One should review public records to identify the proper rightsholders and conduct proper due diligence and change of title research,” says Ms. Morgan.

Download the article here.

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