Roth Greeting Cards v. United Card Company

Roth Greeting Cards v. United Card Company 

  • FACTS:
    • Roth accused United Card Co. of copyright infringement based on claims that United produced and distributed seven greeting cards that very similar to greeting cards produced and distributed by Roth.
    • United didn’t have any writers on staff, and the company vice-president claims that he can’t recall where they got the ideas for the cards. He tries to say that the ideas may have come from plant personnel, random people in public places, Koenig (the company president), or elsewhere. He also states that he may have gotten the idea from looking at other cards in stores or gift shows. He admits that he may have seen Roth cards.
    • Analysis of this case necessitates that the entire card, “including text, arrangement of text, art work, and association between artwork and text, be considered as a whole.”
    • So the court looks at the combination of the text, artwork, and layout.
    • “In order to be copyrightable, the work must be the original work of the copyright claimant or his predecessor in interest.”
    • Originality element requires independent creation, but not something entirely new.
    • To prove infringement, the plaintiff must show that there is substantial similarity between the infringing work and the copyrighted work.
    • The similarity must be the result of the defendant copying the copyrighted work.
    • Protection is against copying, not against works that happen to be similar.
    • “The test for infringement is whether the work is recognizable by an ordinary observer as having been taken from the copyrighted source.”
    • Here, the evidence of United’s access (via their president and vice-president) to Roth’s copyrighted cards, and their practice of looking at other cards for ideas works against their claim that they didn’t directly copy Roth’s cards.
    • The evidence against United is furthered when the similarity between the cards is considered.
    • The cards were found to be substantially similar.
    • Court found that United infringed Roth’s greeting cards.

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