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P. KAUFMANN, INC. v. AMERICRAFT FABRICS

April 12, 2002

P. KAUFMANN, INC., PLAINTIFF,
V.
AMERICRAFT FABRICS, INC., AND P.F.C. CONVERTING, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert W. Sweet, United States District Judge

OPINION

This action involves a claim of copyright infringement arising under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., and for related claims of injury to business reputation and unfair competition. Defendant P.F.C. Converting, Inc. ("PFC") has counterclaimed, alleging that two letters sent by plaintiff P. Kaufmann, Inc. ("Kaufmann") to retailers were harmful to its business. Kaufmann has submitted a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss PFC's counterclaims on the grounds that they fail to state a cause of action.

For the following reasons, the first counterclaim is dismissed and the second counterclaim is dismissed in part, with leave to amend.

Parties

Kaufmann is a corporation duly organized and existing under the law of the State of New York. It has been involved in the design and sale of home furnishing fabrics for more than forty years.

PFC is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Georgia. PFC is a textile converter and marketer of upholstery fabrics. PFC performs its marketing through the trade name Magnolia Home Fashions.

Facts

The following facts are taken from PFC's amended counterclaim and documents referred to therein. This section does nor include facts from two affidavits that PFC submitted with its opposition papers to this motion.*fn1

PFC manufactures and sells an upholstery fabric called Sheridan (the "Sheridan design"). Kaufmann manufactures and sells an upholstery fabric called Queensland (the "Queensland design"). The underlying lawsuit filed by Kaufmann alleges that the Sheridan design infringes on the Queensland design.

On April 4, 2001, Kaufmann, through its legal counsel, wrote a letter to defendant Americraft Fabrics, Inc. ("Americraft") alleging that PFC's Sheridan design "mimics and copies" Kaufmann's Queensland design. Americraft forwarded the letter to PFC.

On April 10, 2001, PFC responded to the letter. It stated that it was the appropriate addressee of the April 4, 2001 letter, and pointed out to Kaufmann various distinguishing differences between the two designs. It stated:

The Sheridan design has what is referred to in the art as a five star floral pattern on each of the four corners of a square and one floral pattern centered in the square while Queensland pattern has a different layout which is referred to in the art as a 27 inch, half-drop repeat, side by side. The Queensland design has two large peaches at the bottom of each of its flowers while the Sheridan design has no peaches. The Queensland design has a grouping of cherries overlapping the Queensland's peaches, while the Sheridan design has no cherries or peaches. The Queensland design utilizes large green leaves, while the Sheridan design has small green leaves. The Queensland design utilizes grapes that are all blue in color, while approximately fifty percent of the grapes the Sheridan design utilizes are gray in color. The Queensland design utilizes fifteen screens in its manufacture, while the Sheridan design utilizes only twelve screens.

Kaufmann did not respond to PFC's April 10, 2001 letter.

Over the ensuing months, PFC continued to print fabric using the Sheridan design and to acquire new customers for the Sheridan design.

In June 2001, PFC established a relationship with Corinthian, Inc. ("Corinthian"), in Corinth, Mississippi, a company partially owned by Rooms-To-Go, Inc. ("Rooms-To-Go"), to furnish the Sheridan design for use in manufacturing upholstered furniture for Rooms-To-Go.

On September 13, 2001, Kaufmann wrote a letter to Rooms-To-Go, in Seffner, Florida. The letter included a copy of Kaufmann's Queensland design copyright and stated that the Sheridan design "mimics and copies P. Kaufmann's Queensland design" and "clearly appears to have been copied to make a fabric under the name Sheridan that is incorporated in your furniture." The letter also stated that Rooms-To-Go switched from the Queensland design to the Sheridan design to "switch to a cheaper fabric incorporating a substantially similar design from a different supplier."*fn2 The letter also demanded that Rooms-To-Go immediately ...


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