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Judge Rules on Summary Judgments Involving Coach

Coach had filed a civil complaint asking the court to order Marybeth Peters to register its copyright for a fabric design that was denied registration.

NEW YORK — A federal court in New York granted a motion filed for summary judgment by Marybeth Peters, register of copyrights with the United States Copyright Office, against Coach Inc. and Coach Services while denying a motion filed by Coach in the same matter.

Coach had filed a civil complaint asking the court to order Marybeth Peters to register its copyright for a fabric design that was denied registration. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment in the proceeding.

Initially, the court denied both motions and suspended the case out of concern for the legal ramifications of future infringement actions Coach could file.

However, this summer, Coach indicated that it had no intention of bringing on an infringement action, and both parties in the case asked the court to revisit their cross motions, according to court documents.

“The judge’s decision on the summary judgment motion was simply a routine review of an administrative ruling, nothing more,” said a Coach spokesperson.

Coach filed a complaint in 2003 asking for a judicial review of the Copyright Office’s refusal to register a fabric design called “Signature CC Fabric Design.” The fabric pattern in question is described as consisting of “a distinctive pattern comprising two linked elements facing each other in a mirrored relationship and two unlinked elements in a mirrored relationship and positioned perpendicular to the linked elements.”

Coach first filed an application to register a copyright for the fabric in 2001. The application and two subsequent appeals to the Copyright Office were denied, according to court documents.

According to the documents, Coach argued that the register of copyrights had incorrectly determined that the design in question did not have sufficient creative elements and that the decision was arbitrary and capricious. The court disagreed, but noted in its opinion that the ruling does not mean the works in question are not eligible for copyright protection.

“To go right to the court to demand review without an infringement suit pending is extreme, and very unusual,” said Jane Shay Wald, partner and chair of the Trademark Practice Group, Irell and Manella LLP, Los Angeles, as well as immediate past chair of the Los Angeles Copyright Society. Wald is not affiliated with the lawsuit.

This story first appeared in the September 15, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.