SW Legal studies in Business

Reapplication of Copyright to Material Previously in Public Domain Provides Protection
Description Appeals court held that due to a change in federal law that restored certain copyrights that had previously been removed, other parties had to cease producing the material that was now protected by copyright, even if it had not been protected previously.
Topic Intellectual Property
Key Words Copyright; Restored Copyright; Infringement; Injunction; Reliance Party; Doll Design
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The troll doll was created by a Dane, Thomas Dam, in the 1950s. In 1962 he began to sell them in the U.S. through his company, Dam Things. He had a copyright in Denmark. In 1965 he got a U.S. copyright for the doll. However, since the doll had been sold in the U.S. before the copyright was issued, it was in the public domain in the U.S., so the copyright was invalid. In 1964, Dam licensed Uneeda Doll to make and sell a line of troll dolls under the name Wish-niks. They did until about 1984. The right to sell the dolls was granted to Troll Company, a Danish firm, in 1989. In 1994, Congress enacted the Uruguay Round Amendment Act (URAA) which amended U.S. copyright law to come in compliance with the international Berne Convention. That restored the copyrights for many foreign works that had been declared to be in the public domain previously. Hence, the troll doll copyright was restored in 1996. Troll Company got a registration certificate that stated 1957 as the first date of publication of the doll. Just as Troll Company was planning to relaunch the dolls, it learned that Uneeda was going to sell its Wish-nik trolls to Walmart. Troll Co. informed Walmart of a copyright issue and Walmart did not sell the dolls. Troll sued Uneeda for infringement. The district court granted a preliminary injunction against sales by Uneeda. It appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. Troll Co. owns the restored copyright to troll dolls. A reliance party is one who was exploiting the material during the time before the copyright was restored. The URAA required that the restored copyright owner must notify a reliance party of the fact of the copyright. The reliance party would then have one year to sell off existing copies before it could be subject to infringement claims. Since Uneeda had stopped making the dolls, it lost its status as a reliance party, so has no right to sell for a year. It must stop sales immediately.

Citation Troll Company v. Uneeda Doll Company, 483 F.3d 150 (2nd Cir., 2007)

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