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Plaintiff files suit against Copyright Office for denying its application for its "sculptural" KOOSH BALL. Cases of Interest >  IP >  Copyright
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OddzOn Products Inc. v Oman

United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 1989
16 U.S.P.Q.2d 1225

FACTS:

Plaintiff, OddzOn? Products, filed an action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against defendant, Oman, claiming the Oman’s refusal to register the plaintiff’s product was “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.” OddzOn? submitted an application with the Copyright Office for its product called a KOOSH ball, which, according to OddzOn?, was a “sculptural work” and was composed of many rubbery and elastic filaments. The KOOSH ball resembles a sphere, but has a discontinuous surface. Defendant denied the application, claiming that the product was essentially a sphere and familiar or basic symbols and shapes are not copyrightable.

PROCEDURE:

Plaintiff appealed the decision of the Copyright Office and upon receiving an unfavorable verdict, filed suit in the District Court for the District of Columbia. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

ANALYSIS:

Plaintiff argues that the shape and texture of the KOOSH BALL was unique and thus copyrightable. Defendant argues that if familiar symbols or designs were copyrightable, the public would be deprived access to common shapes and designs that have been part of public use for centuries.

The court holds that the Copyright Office, though correct in its decision, was incorrect in its reasoning. The Court notes that the Copyright Office has previously granted protection to objects that had familiar shapes. Therefore, the basis for granting protection lies not in whether the product is familiar but whether the product contains “minimal levels of creativity and originality.” (quoting John Muller & Co., Inc v. N.Y. Arrows Soccer Team, 802 F.2d 989, 990 (8th Cir. 1986)).

In this case, there was not enough originality and though the sculpture is copyrightable, the function (its sphere shape) is not. You cannot copyright functional features. This seems to promote the view that if it’s useful, it may be difficult to argue that it is art and copyrightable.

HOLDING:

The Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.



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