Home > Case Law Studies, Intellectual Properties & Copyrights > Falsifiying Data 1: SCHOLASTIC INC., J.K. ROWLING and TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY, L.P., Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellees, (v) NANCY STOUFFER, Defendant-Counter-Claimant-Appellant (United States of America)

Falsifiying Data 1: SCHOLASTIC INC., J.K. ROWLING and TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY, L.P., Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellees, (v) NANCY STOUFFER, Defendant-Counter-Claimant-Appellant (United States of America)

SCHOLASTIC INC., J.K. ROWLING and TIME WARNER ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY, L.P., Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellees, (v) NANCY STOUFFER, Defendant-Counter-Claimant-Appellant.
02-9405
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
81 Fed. Appx. 396; 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 24243; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P28,707

December 2, 2003, Decided
NOTICE: [**1] RULES OF THE SECOND CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS MAY LIMIT CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS. PLEASE REFER TO THE RULES OF THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THIS CIRCUIT.

SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: Subsequent appeal at Scholastic Inc. v. Stouffer, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 3072 (2d Cir. N.Y., Feb. 8, 2007)

PRIOR HISTORY: Defendant-Counter-Claimant-Appellant Nancy Stouffer (“Stouffer”) appeals from the September 17, 2002 judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Allen G. Schwartz, District Judge) granting Plaintiffs-Appellees’ Scholastic Inc., J.K. Rowling and Time Warner Entertainment Company, L.P. (collectively “Plaintiffs”) motion for summary judgment, dismissing the counterclaims brought against Plaintiffs by Stouffer, awarding Plaintiffs’ certain attorneys fees, and imposing $ 50,000 in sanctions upon finding that Stouffer committed a fraud on the court.
Scholastic, Inc. v. Stouffer, 221 F. Supp. 2d 425, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17531 (S.D.N.Y., 2002)

DISPOSITION: Affirmed.

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant author sought review of a decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which dismissed the author’s counterclaims for trademark and copyright infringement asserted against plaintiffs, an author and two companies, and which further imposed sanctions against defendant and awarded certain attorneys fees to plaintiffs.

OVERVIEW: Defendant asserted counterclaims against plaintiffs for copyright and trademark infringement, which were dismissed by the district court. The district court additionally imposed a sanction of $ 50,000 and awarded plaintiffs certain attorney’s fees. The court held that dismissal of defendant’s trademark claims was proper because no reasonable juror could find a likelihood of confusion as to the source of the two works by the two authors. Although the district court did not individually assess the Polaroid factors for determining the likelihood of confusion, the district court properly acknowledged the governing law and thoroughly compared the works at issue. Dismissal of the copyright claims was also proper because no reasonable juror could find a substantial similarity between the illustrations in the two works. Imposition of the sanction was warranted because there was clear and convincing evidence that defendant submitted falsified evidence in the litigation. The court also affirmed the statutory award of attorney’s fees under 15 U.S.C.S. § 1117(a).

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the decision of the district court.

CORE TERMS: attorneys fees, trademark, similarity, illustration, correctly, reasonable juror, summary judgment, novo, counterclaims
LexisNexis® Headnotes Hide

HN1Go to this Headnote in the case. A district court’s ultimate balancing of the Polaroid factors is always subject to de novo review, and such review is a fortiori applicable on review of a grant of summary judgment.  More Like This Headnote

HN2Go to this Headnote in the case. To prevail on summary judgment in a trademark infringement action, the owner of the trademark must establish that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact regarding whether numerous ordinary prudent purchasers are likely to be misled or confused as to the source of the product in question because of the entrance in the marketplace of defendant’s mark.  More Like This Headnote

HN3Go to this Headnote in the case. In assessing the likelihood of confusion in a trademark infringement action, eight factors set forth in Polaroid should be considered.  More Like This Headnote

HN4Go to this Headnote in the case. A district court’s conclusion that there is no substantial similarity between the copyright protected elements of the parties’ works is reviewed de novo.  More Like This Headnote

HN5Go to this Headnote in the case. A sanction and an award of attorney’s fees granted by a district court are reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard.  More Like This Headnote

HN6Go to this Headnote in the case. Beyond the powers expressly conferred by statute, federal courts have the inherent power to sanction a party for conduct which abuses the judicial process.  More Like This Headnote

COUNSEL: Appearing for Appellees: DALE M. CENDALI, O’Melveny & Myers, LLP, New York, N.Y. EDWARD H. ROSENTHAL, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, PC New York, N.Y.

Appearing for Appellant: THOMAS S. MCNAMARA, Indik & McNamara, P.C., New York, N.Y.

JUDGES: Present: Hon. Rosemary S. Pooler, Hon. Barrington D. Parker, Jr., Hon. Richard C. Wesley, Circuit Judges.

[*397] SUMMARY ORDER

ON CONSIDERATION WHEREOF, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, [**2] AND DECREED that the District Court’s order be AFFIRMED.

Familiarity is assumed as to the facts, the procedural context, and the specification of appellate issues. The District Court properly dismissed Stouffer’s trademark and copyright counterclaims, imposed $ 50,000 sanctions, and awarded Plaintiffs certain attorneys fees.

The District Court’s dismissal of Stouffer’s trademark claims was proper because no reasonable juror could find a likelihood of confusion as to the source of the two parties’ works. HN1Go to the description of this Headnote.“The district court’s ultimate balancing of the Polaroid factors is always subject to de novo review, and such review is a fortiori applicable on review of a grant of summary judgment.” Patsy’s Brand, Inc. v. I.O.B. Realty, Inc., 317 F.3d 209, 215 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal citations and quotations omitted). HN2Go to the description of this Headnote.To prevail on summary judgment in a trademark infringement action, the owner of the trademark must establish that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact regarding whether “numerous ordinary prudent purchasers are likely to be misled or confused as to the source of the product in question because of the entrance in the marketplace [**3] of defendant’s mark.” Id. at 217. HN3Go to the description of this Headnote.In assessing the likelihood of confusion, eight factors set forth by Judge Friendly in Polaroid Corp. v. Polarad Electronics Corp., 287 F.2d 492, 495 (2d Cir. 1961) should be considered. See Nabisco, Inc. v. Warner-Lambert Co., 220 F.3d 43, 46 (2d Cir. 2000). Here, although the District Court did not individually assess each Polaroid factor, it acknowledged the governing law and thoroughly compared the Harry Potter books with Stouffer’s works. In so doing, it correctly found that there was little similarity between the two works at issue. Stouffer’s two publishing businesses were not successful, notwithstanding the questionable evidence submitted by Stouffer to the contrary. Further, Stouffer’s and Plaintiffs’ marks are used in two very different ways. Rowling’s use of the term “Muggles” describes ordinary humans with no magical powers while Stouffer’s “Muggles” are tiny, hairless creatures with elongated heads. Further, the Harry Potter books are novel-length works and whose primary customers are older children and adults whereas Stouffer’s booklets appeal to young children. Accordingly,  [**4] the District Court correctly dismissed Stouffer’s trademark claims.

The District Court’s dismissal of Stouffer’s copyright claims was proper because no reasonable juror could find a substantial similarity between Stouffer’s illustration of Larry Potter and Plaintiffs’ illustration of Harry Potter. HN4Go to the description of this Headnote.The District Court’s conclusion that there is no substantial similarity between the copyright  [*398] protected elements of the parties’ works is reviewed de novo. Boisson v. Banian, Ltd., 273 F.3d 262, 272 (2d Cir. 2001). Here, aside from the fact that both illustrations depict a boy wearing glasses, there is no similarity between the two works. Accordingly, the District Court correctly dismissed Stouffer’s copyright claims.

The District Court’s sanctions and award of attorneys’ fees was warranted. HN5Go to the description of this Headnote.Such an award is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. Schlaifer Nance & Co., Inc. v. Estate of Warhol, 194 F.3d 323, 333 (2d Cir. 1999). HN6Go to the description of this Headnote.Beyond the powers expressly conferred by statute, federal courts have the inherent power to sanction a party for conduct which abuses the judicial process. See Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 46, 115 L. Ed. 2d 27, 111 S. Ct. 2123 (1991). [**5] Here, the District Court found clear and convincing evidence that Stouffer had submitted falsified evidence in this litigation, and we adopt its findings and affirm its sanction against Stouffer in the amount of $ 50,000. We likewise affirm the statutory award of attorneys’ fees and costs to Plaintiffs with respect to their defense of Stouffer’s trademark claims. See 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a). Further, we find it is appropriate in this case to award Plaintiffs all attorneys fees and costs that they incurred on appeal.

For these reasons, the Court hereby AFFIRMS the District Court’s order dismissing Stouffer’s counterclaims, sanctioning Stouffer $ 50,000 and awarding Plaintiffs certain attorneys fees, and ORDERS Stouffer to pay all Plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and costs incurred on appeal.

// <![CDATA[//

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Date/Time: Monday, February 15, 2010 – 9:12 PM EST
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