The department stores and the e-tailer, along with Zappos and the brand Sanctuary Clothing, convinced a California federal court to reject claims by Gold Value International Textile, which does business as Fiesta Fabric, that fabric design it had copyrighted had been infringed upon.
While Sanctuary was deemed the manufacturer of a blouse allegedly made from a sheer fabric with an embroidered mixed-geometric design, the retailers were included in the suit as vendors and beneficiaries, according to Fiesta’s January 2016 complaint.
But U.S. District Court Judge John Kronstadt on Friday handed a pre-trial win to the retailers and Sanctuary after finding that Fiesta’s copyright was invalid, mainly because the design had already been published when the textile company applied for the protection in late 2013.
The U.S. Copyright Office agreed, telling Kronstadt at the end of April that Fiesta characterized the design as unpublished in its application and it would not have granted the copyright otherwise.
“The analysis of the [Copyright Office] response and its application of these standards are persuasive,” Kronstadt said before citing a number of similar district court cases that also ended with invalidated copyright registrations.
As Fiesta’s case rested on only the one design, the judge said the company “cannot sustain its claim for copyright infringement.”
Kronstadt also rejected Fiesta’s motion for reconsideration of the determination by the Copyright Office, finding its argument of a “good faith mistake” to be faulty as Fiesta purportedly knew the design at issue had been previously published, according to the order.
Commenting on the result, Sanctuary counsel Jed Ferdinand said the ruling “is an important victory for the fashion industry as it continues to fight against the flood of copyright lawsuits that have been plaguing the industry for years.”
A representative of Fiesta could not be reached immediately for comment.
Copyright has been becoming a bigger issue in fashion, and the U.S. Supreme Court even weighed in recently with a ruling that sided with the ability of companies to copyright certain artistic elements of an apparel-based design.
Apparel has long been considered a “useful article” immune from copyright protection, but fabric design has been one way around that, and textile companies regularly make use of copyrights.
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