Whether or not Caravan infringed upon Cameron's copyright when they used a "stem and leaf" design that was substantially similar to Cameron's. Cases of Interest >  IP Cases of Interest >  IP >  Copyright

Cameron Indus. v. Caravan, Ltd.

This case was decided one week ago in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Brief by Keith O'Connor
CASE NAME: Cameron Indus. v. Caravan, Ltd.
CASE CITE: Cameron Indus. v. Caravan, Ltd., 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 25684, 1-4 (2d Cir. N.Y. Dec. 16, 2010)
PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Cameron Industries is appealing a December 28, 2009 district court judgment that dismissed Cameron’s complaint because they had not established copyright infringement by Caravan, Ltd. The district court found no copyright infringement and decided in favor of Caravan.
FACTS OF THE CASE: Cameron is accusing Caravan of copyright infringement. The claim is that Caravan accessed Cameron’s “stem-and-leaf” garment design from a third party, copied it, and then sold a fabric with a “substantially similar” design to the third party. The rule of law is this: "To establish infringement, the copyright owner must demonstrate that (1) the defendant has actually copied the plaintiff's work; and (2) the copying is illegal because a substantial similarity exists between the defendant's work and the protectable elements of plaintiff's." Yurman Design, Inc. v. PAJ, Inc., 262 F.3d 101, 110 (2d Cir. 2001). Neither party disputes that a substantial similarity exists between Cameron and Caravan's designs. Caravan claims that they did not have access to the design and did not copy it. Furthermore, Caravan asserts that stem-and-leaf designs are quite common in the industry and that their design is similar to many others in the industry but it was independently created; therefore, no copyright was infringed upon.
ISSUES: Cameron argues that the district court clearly erred by finding that (1) the designs at issue are not "so strikingly similar as to preclude the possibility of independent creation"; and (2) Cameron had not proven that Caravan had access to Cameron's design during the relevant time period.
HOLDING: On the first issue, the court of appeals held that it was not clearly erroneous for the district court to find that "another entity could have created Caravan's stem-and-leaf design without access to Cameron's design." The district court plausibly could find the designs not to be "so strikingly similar as to preclude the possibility of independent creation." Jorgensen, 351 F.3d at 56. The court ruled in favor of Cameron on issue two as well. The court of appeals explained: “after an exhaustive review of the record, we agree with the district court that Cameron ‘failed to provide non-speculative, non-conjectural evidence’ that Caravan had access to Cameron's design before Caravan sold its printed fabric to a third party. The fact that a third party "had the opportunity" to show or provide Caravan with Cameron's design, is insufficient by itself to prove that access in fact occurred. The district court did not clearly err in finding that Cameron had not proven access by Caravan.”
ANALYSIS: Here, the court made it very clear that the burden of proof is on the party claiming infringement. Proving infringement is a high standard to meet and Cameron simply did not meet the requisite standard in this case. From a policy standpoint, this is a good thing in a free market. A company should not be punished unless they have clearly infringed upon another’s work.

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