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Chic Home Design, LLC v. New Journey Group Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

August 30, 2017




         This is a case about textile design copyrights. Plaintiffs Chic Home Design, LLC and The Luxury Bedding Co. (collectively, “Chic Home”) claim to own copyrights to three textile patterns named “Livingston Comforter, ” “Euphoria Yellow, ” and “Pink Floral.” Chic Home accuses Defendant New Journey Group Limited (“New Journey”) of infringing those copyrights. New Journey claims that Chic Home's copyright was improperly registered and is therefore invalid. New Journey also asserts a counterclaim for tortious interference with contract.

         New Journey has filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, that motion is denied. Chic Home also moves for summary judgment on the tortious interference counterclaim. That motion is granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Our story begins in China. There, a company named Nantong Thongzhou Booming Home Textile Co., Ltd. (“Booming”) designed and manufactured bedding sets. One of its customers was Chic Home, the plaintiff in this case. Chic Home sells bedding online and in its store in Brooklyn.

         In 2012, Booming began manufacturing the three disputed textile designs for Chic Home. Chic Home's version of events is as follows: Chic Home obtained computer-aided designs files (“CADs”) for the Livingston Comforter and Euphoria Yellow designs from Booming, and obtained the CAD for the Pink Floral design from a third party. (Dkt. No. 42 at 2-3.) Then, Chic Home's president, Morad Nasiri, worked with Booming to change certain colors and trimmings for each of the designs. (Id. at 3.) After the designs were finalized, Booming began manufacturing the three bedding sets for Chic Home. Booming made repeated assurances to Chic Home that it was selling these comforter sets exclusively to Chic Home, and not to any other bedding merchants in the United States. (Dkt. No. 43 ¶¶ 5‒6.) At his deposition, Nasiri testified that he believed that Chic Home owned the rights to the three designs. (Dkt. No. 43-2 at 13:14-14:24.)

         On September 20, 2014, however, Booming entered into a contract with New Journey, transferring to New Journey the rights to twenty-eight designs, including the three designs disputed in this case. (Dkt. No. 38-5.) Since then, New Journey manufactured and sold bedding products using those three designs. (See Dkt. No. 42 at 1 (quoting Dkt. No. 43-6).) New Journey stopped manufacturing the designs when this lawsuit was filed. (Dkt. No. 43-6 at 25:17-25:22.)

         On October 31, 2014, Chic Home registered a copyright for the Livingston Comforter design. (Dkt. No. 43-4.) In the “Author” field, it lists Jingjing Zhang, a Chinese employee of Booming. (Id.) In the “Copyright Claimant” field, it asserts that the copyright was transferred “[b]y written agreement.” (Id.) On January 7, 2016, Chic Home registered a copyright for the Euphoria Yellow and Pink Floral designs, providing substantially the same information as for the Livingston Comforter registration. (Id.)

         B. Procedural History

         Chic Home filed this suit on December 3, 2015. (Dkt. No. 1.) The operative complaint is the Second Amended Complaint (the “Complaint”), filed on July 27, 2016. (Dkt. No. 28 (“Compl.”).) The Complaint asserts three claims for copyright infringement, one for each of the three designs. New Journey filed an answer on August 2, 2016. (Dkt. No. 29.) In addition to disputing the validity of the three copyrights, New Journey asserted a counterclaim against Chic Home for tortious interference with New Journey's contractual relationship with Booming. (Id.)

         New Journey filed this motion for summary judgment on February 3, 2017. (Dkt. No. 37.) Chic Home has not filed a formal cross-motion for summary judgment on the tortious interference counterclaim, but its opposition brief nevertheless seeks summary judgment on the issue. (See Dkt. No. 42.)

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine if, considering the record as a whole, a rational jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

         “On summary judgment, the party bearing the burden of proof at trial must provide evidence on each element of its claim or defense.” Cohen Lans LLP v. Naseman, No. 14 Civ. 4045, 2017 WL 477775, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 3, 2017) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). “If the party with the burden of proof makes the requisite initial showing, the burden shifts to the opposing party to identify specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue for trial, i.e., that reasonable jurors could differ about the evidence.” Clopay Plastic Prods. Co. v. Excelsior Packaging Grp., Inc., No. 12 Civ. 5262, 2014 WL 4652548, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2014). The court views all evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, ” and summary judgment may be granted only if “no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the nonmoving party.” Allen v. Coughlin, 64 F.3d 77, 79 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Lunds, Inc. v. Chemical Bank, 870 F.2d 840, 844 (2d Cir. 1989)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. ...

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