United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
C. MULLEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgement (Doc. No. 12), Plaintiff's Response
in Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No.
16), and Defendant's Reply to the Response to the Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 18). The parties' motions
are ripe for disposition.
case involves a copyright infringement dispute between two
parties. Plaintiff is a residential homebuilding company,
which has a sole member and manager, Randall Nassar, that
engaged in licensing negotiations for the Caswell
architecture designs with the Defendant, another homebuilding
company, which ultimately fell through. Plaintiff alleges
that Defendant proceeded to construct homes using the Caswell
design under a new name, New Castle.
either 2005 or 2006 Nassar hand drew sketches for a house on
graph paper. These sketches included floor plans, all of the
rooms, front elevations, and where doors and windows would
go. Brookwood Dep. 28:5-13. The sketches were not kept but
they are estimated to have been around 3-4 pages.
sketches were used by Drafting & Design
(“D&D”) employees Jay Bodner, Jimmy Levin,
and Craig Jones to create the Caswell plans using
AutoCAD® software. Mr. Bodner testified that the creative
decisions were made by Mr. Nassar. D&D Dep 55:17-19.
However, the graph paper sketch did not include details such
as roof shingles, or porch railings. Id. 27:9-24.
Mr. Bodner also testified that it was not his understanding
that he had rights to the Caswell Plan and he believes the
author of the Caswell Plans to be Mr. Nassar. Id.
36:8-24, 55:10-56:9. However, Mr. Nassar does not know who to
use AutoCAD® software and so did not participate in
actually using the software to create the Caswell plan.
12, 2015, Brookwood filed an application to register the
copyrights in the Caswell Plans. The copyright application
for the Caswell design did not include the sketches drawn by
Mr. Nassar. Brookwood Dep. 27:22-25. The copyright
application only included the Caswell Plans created by
Bodnar, Levin, and Jones using the AutoCAD® software and
did not identify this Plan as being derivative of any work,
including Mr. Nassar's sketches. The copyright
application identifies Nassar as the author of the Caswell
Plans and Brookwood as the owner of the copyrights by virtue
of a written agreement. Nassar claims to have created a
handwritten assignment in 2010 that assigned his copyrights
in the Caswell Plans to Brookwood. However, no one can find
the 2010 hand-written assignment.
has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant argues
that Mr. Nassar has no ownership interest in the Caswell
design because he is not the author of the copyrighted work
and therefore Plaintiff lacks standing to pursue a claim for
infringement of the asserted copyright. Plaintiff responds
that (1) Nassar is the author of the Caswell Plans, (2) if
Nassar is not the sole author he is at minimum a co-author of
the Plans, and (3) even if D&D is the sole author of the
Plans, D&D assigned any rights it did have in the Plans
to Brookwood and so Plaintiff would still have standing in
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is genuine “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence”
in support of the non-movant's position is not sufficient
to establish a genuine dispute. Id. at 252. A
material fact affects the outcome of the suit under the
applicable substantive law. See Id. at 248. When
determining whether a dispute is genuine or a fact is
material, courts are required to view the facts and draw
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
party opposing the summary judgment motion. Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). Unsupported
speculation, however, is insufficient to defeat a motion for
summary judgment. Evans v. Techs. Applications &
Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 960 (4th Cir. 1996).
protection covers “original works of authorship fixed
in any tangible medium of expression.” 17 U.S.C. §
102. To establish a prima facie case of copyright
infringement, a plaintiff must demonstrate that “first
he owned the copyright to the work that was allegedly copied
and second, that the defendant copied protected elements of
the work.” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens, Inc.,
241 F.3d 350, 353 (4th Cir.2001); see also Billco
Intern., Inc. v. Charles Products, Inc., 776 F.Supp.2d
105, 112 (D.M.D. 2011).
contend that summary judgment is appropriate because the
evidence shows that Nassar does not own the copyright and in
fact shows that D&D owns the copyright to the Caswell
Plans. The Court's analysis begins with the Plaintiff
having a certificate of registration, which is “prima
facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and of the
facts stated in the certificate, ” such as ownership.
17 U.S.C. § 410(c).
the Defendant posits that statutory presumption of validity
does not apply in this case because the copyrighted work was
not registered “within five years after first
publication of the work” as required by the statute. 17
U.S.C. § 410(c). The Asserted Copyright Registration
identifies July 10, 2006, as the date of first publication of
the copyrighted work. Brookwood did not file the application
that resulted in the Asserted Copyright Registration until
June 12, 2015. The Plaintiff does not refute these dates in
its response. Since the copyrighted work was not registered
within five ...