In a recent decision, the Supreme Court held that a copyright applicant’s inadvertent mistake of law in a copyright registration application does not invalidate the application or corresponding registration. In so holding, the Court erased an earlier victory for fashion retailer H&M in a long running copyright dispute with fabric designer Unicolors, Inc. handed down by an appeals court. Before the Supreme Court’s decision, the Ninth Circuit court of appeals had ruled in favor of H&M nixing a $750,000 win for Unicolors.
To obtain special rights for copyright holders afforded by the Copyright Act of 1976, the creator must apply for a copyright registration by, among other things, submitting a copy of the work and an application for the copyright to the federal Copyright Office’s Register of Copyrights. Under the Copyright Act, the application for registration of a copyright should not contain inaccurate information. However, in the event that an application does contain inaccurate information, the resulting registration is not automatically invalidated. The Copyright Act contains a safe harbor provision that provides that the registration will only be invalidated if the applicant knew that the information in the application was inaccurate and the inaccuracy is such that, if matters were accurately presented, the Register of Copyrights would have denied the application. Continue reading ›