L.A. Printex Industries, Inc. created two-dimensional graphic designs that were used on textiles, primarily in the garment industry. L.A. Printex brought a copyright action against a number of clothing retailers and vendors, alleging infringement of one of L.A. Printex’s floral designs (on right).
Simply Fashion Stores, Ltd., one of the defendants, moved to dismiss the claim on the grounds that the floral design at issue was derived from elements found in nature, and as such, is only granted “thin” exclusive rights. Simply Fashion argued that because L.A. Printex was only granted “thin” exclusive rights, Simply Fahion’s design must be virtually identical to L.A. Printex’s for a Court to find infringement.
Judge Matz, of the Central District Court of California (also currently presiding over UMG recordings v. Veoh), rejected the argument on two grounds.
First, Judge Matz found that the design at issue wasn’t a generic copy of natural phenomena:
The floral patterns in Plaintiff’s design are, however, comprised of many different depictions of flowers, some relatively realistic and others more creative or abstract, as well as different kinds of curls, which vary in how realistically they depict the stems and tendrils of flowers and plants. Simply Fashion has made no effort to identify the kinds of natural flowers and plants that these elements supposedly depict. Indeed, upon a cursory visual inspection, most of Plaintiff’s flowers and curls look more graphic and stylized than do flowers and stems in nature. Hence, Simply Fashion’s conclusion that Plaintiff’s design elements are generic copies of natural phenomena is unsubstantiated.
Secondly, Judge Matz found that even if the design consisted of generic copies of natural phenomena, the unique arrangement of the flowers may warrant exclusive rights.
Judge Matz applied the Ninth Circuit’s two-part objective extrinsic and subjective intrinsic test, and denied the motion to dismiss. The Court couldn’t reach the conclusion that no reasonable jury could find infringement.