Monday, June 14, 2010, 11:58 AM

Fabric Printing Company Loses Bid To Enforce Design Based On "Clip Art"

Fabric printing company L.A. Printex sued clothing retailer Aeropostale and its supplier for infringing Printex's copyright registration for a textile design entitled "Geometric" in the Central District of California. The registration include 13 distinct patterns. The allegedly infringed pattern consists of a series of identically-sized snowflakes arranged in a heart-shaped pattern. Printex's designer copies the design for the snowflakes from Adobe Photoshop 7.0's "clip art" collection.

In its summary judgment motion, Aeropostale argued: (1) the Adobe End User License Agreement prevented Printex from registering derivative works based on clip art; (2) Printex fraudulently misled the Copyright Office by failing to disclose the Adobe clip art; and (3) Printex's registration is for a group and Printex failed to offer evidence that it published the patterns as a "single unit" as the Copyright Act requires.

The court rejected the first two arguments, holding that the EULA only prohibited users from asserting rights in the software and because of that, Printex had not failed to disclose a fact that might have prevented the Copyright Office from issuing the registration. However, the court held that Printex failed to submit any evidence that it published the snowflake design independent of the other designs in the registration. Noting that the Copyright Office has not promulgated regulations allowing for group registrations of fabric patterns, the court held that Printex did not have a valid registration in the snowflake design alone.

The opinion underscores the need to evaluate the material for which protection is sought, and how to craft the appropriate protections for those materials. The full opinion may be found here.

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