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Mannella Group, Inc. v. Cornerstone Chiropractic Marketing, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

May 21, 2015

THE MANNELLA GROUP, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CORNERSTONE CHIROPRACTIC MARKETING, INC., and DR. DANIEL HANDFORD, Defendants.

ORDER

GRAHAM C. MULLEN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, The Manella Group, Inc. ("Manella"), filed its First Amended Complaint asserting copyright infringement based on Defendants' alleged copying of two separate works: (1) Certificate of Registration dated August 6, 2014, identified as TX0007889949, Title of Work: ScriptSample-Radio2, and (2) Certificate of Registration dated November 3, 2014, identified as PA X-XXX-XXX, Title of Work: Report of Findings/Consultation Video. (First Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶¶ 45, 50.)

In 2011, Dr. Joseph Mannella developed Decompression Flight School ("DFS"). (FAC ¶ 10.) As part of DFS, Dr. Mannella created the DFS website. (FAC ¶ 11.) The website is a comprehensive source of materials for starting, improving, and operating a chiropractic decompression practice, along with various resources to assist in maintaining the practice, including practice foundations, phone principles consultations, examinations, and report of findings. (FAC ¶¶ 12, 15-17.) The DFS website includes a "Flight Plan, " accessible through the DFS website, providing a Consultation module including a video showing a scripted presentation performed by Dr. Mannella and a Report of Findings module including multiple videos showing scripted presentations performed by Dr. Mannella. (FAC ¶ ¶ 19-20.) The Report of Findings module includes Dr. Mannella performing a scripted presentation to a patient, and part of the presentation includes a whiteboard demonstration where Dr. Mannella uses drawings to explain findings to the patient. (FAC ¶ 21.) The DFS website also includes Radio Commercial Example #2 (Radio Commercial). (FAC ¶ 14, FAC Exhibit A.) These works are only available to chiropractors subscribing the DFS system. (FAC ¶ 22.)

Defendant Handford purchased the DFS system from Mannella. (FAC ¶ 35.) Handford's access to the DFS website included access to Mannella's copyrighted Radio Commercial and Mannella's Report of Findings videos and Consultation videos. (FAC ¶ ¶ 38-40.)

Defendants created a presentation titled "The NDS Method" and placed the presentation on the website totaldecompression.com, an exclusive membership site accessed by chiropractors purchasing a subscription to the website, as part of its Total Decompression program. (FAC ¶ ¶ 61-67, FAC Exhibit F.) Defendants presented "The NDS Method" presentation to chiropractors attending Cornerstone's seminars for commercial profit. (FAC ¶ 68.) The "The NDS Method" presentation incorporates Mannella's Report of Findings video materials, including Dr. Mannella's scripted presentation and illustrations explaining findings to a patient. (FAC ¶ ¶ 69-71.)

Defendants prepared and placed a document titled "Avoid Back Surgery" on the Total Decompression website for access by chiropractors purchasing a subscription to the Total Decompression website for download and use by chiropractors accessing the total decompression website. (FAC ¶ ¶ 74-76, FAC Exhibit G.) Defendants intended that chiropractors using the "Avoid Back Surgery" document would circulate or distribute the document under the subscribing chiropractor's name and distribute it to potential clients and patients requesting a copy in response to advertising by the chiropractor. (FAC ¶ ¶ 77-78.) The "Avoid Back Surgery" document incorporates the Report of Findings video materials, including Dr. Mannella's scripted presentations and illustrations explaining findings to a patient. It also incorporates the Consultation video materials, including Dr. Mannella's scripted presentation, and infringes the copyright of Mannella's video presentations. (FAC ¶ ¶ 81-83.)

Defendants obtained a copy of the radio commercial from the DFS website and provided it to a third party, Dr. Helmendach. (FAC ¶ ¶ 85-86.) Defendants used the radio commercial for their own purpose and passed it off as their own to Dr. Helmendach. (FAC ¶ 88.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's false designation of origin of the DFS systems and materials, including the radio commercial is likely to cause consumer confusion and damage to Mannella. (FAC ¶ ¶ 89-91.)

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint asserts four claims against Defendants: three counts of copyright infringement and one count of violation of the Lanham Act. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A complaint survives a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if it contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic v Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).) "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

To establish a case for copyright infringement, a plaintiff must allege "(1) ownership of a valid copyright and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original.'" CoStar Group, Inc. v. LoopNet, Inc., 373 F.3d 544, 549 (4th Cir.2004) (quoting Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991)). Defendants argue that Counts II and III of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint fail to state a claim because Plaintiff did not supply ...


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