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HARRIS CUSTOM BUILDERS, INC. v. HOFFMEYER

February 2, 1995

HARRIS CUSTOM BUILDERS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD HOFFMEYER, Defendant and Third-Party Plaintiff, v. EVAN A. HARRIS, Third-Party Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES F. HOLDERMAN

 JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, District Judge:

 Plaintiff Harris Custom Builders, Inc. ("Harris Builders") filed this action against defendant Richard Hoffmeyer claiming copyright infringement. Defendant Hoffmeyer then brought a counterclaim against defendant Harris Builders and a third-party complaint against third-party defendant Evan A. Harris, Harris Builders' president, alleging violations of federal racketeering laws and asserting a claim of fraud.

 The court previously dismissed both defendant Hoffmeyer's counterclaim and the third-party complaint. Presently before the court are the remaining parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, plaintiff Harris Builders' motion for summary judgment is granted and defendant Hoffmeyer's motion for summary judgment is denied.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Harris Builders is in the business of the development of architectural design plans and drawings for the construction of custom built residential homes. Harris Builders' underlying copyright infringement claim is based upon the allegations that defendant Hoffmeyer copied Harris Builders' copyrighted architectural drawings for use in the construction of a residence called "English Manor." Plaintiff has secured the exclusive rights and privileges in the English Manor architectural design plans and drawings by registering its copyright with the Registrar of Copyrights. *fn1" Plaintiff has obtained a Certificate of Registration for its copyright identified as Registration No. VAU 149-275 dated January 31, 1989. *fn2"

 Plaintiff alleges that defendant built a house substantially identical to the house depicted in plaintiff's copyrighted architectural drawings. Plaintiff claims that it obtained a copy of the drawings for the house defendant built and found that those drawings were substantially identical to plaintiff's copyrighted drawings, particularly with respect to the outside appearance, the general layout of the rooms, the locations of the fireplaces and one staircase, the approximate dimensions of the rooms, and the types, locations and sizes of the windows and doors. Plaintiff's copyright claim has been the subject of two motions for summary judgment filed by defendant Hoffmeyer. This court denied both. See Orders of Feb. 27, 1992 and Oct. 9, 1992.

 In defendant Hoffmeyer's counterclaim and third-party complaint, Hoffmeyer alleged that plaintiff Harris Builders committed fraud on the copyright office when applying for a copyright and engaged in racketeering behavior by seeking to enforce a copyright which Harris allegedly knew was invalid. According to Hoffmeyer, the fraud allegedly occurred when Harris Builders, on the application for registration of the copyright, listed itself as the author of the drawings without mentioning Maxwin Heimann, who for the most part, created the drawings. Both parties have now filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of defendant Hoffmeyer's liability for copyright infringement.

 ANALYSIS

 I. Standard For Review

 Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the non-movant must be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). This court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.

 II. Elements of a Copyright Infringement Claim

 In order to prevail in a copyright infringement action, a plaintiff must demonstrate both "'(1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original.'" Wildlife Express Corp. v. Carol Wright Sales, Inc., 18 F.3d 502, 507 (7th Cir. 1994) (quoting Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361, 111 S. Ct. 1282, 1296, 113 L. Ed. 2d 358 (1991)). A certificate of copyright registration from the U.S. Register of Copyrights constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright. 17 U.S.C. ยง 410(c). However, this presumption in favor of validity is rebuttable; once the certificate has been produced, the burden shifts to the defendant to demonstrate that the copyright is in fact invalid. Wildlife Express, 18 F.3d at 507.

 "An owner of a copyright is protected against unauthorized copying." Id. at 508 (citing Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 218, 74 S. Ct. 460, 470, 98 L. Ed. 630 (1954)). When direct evidence of copying is lacking, "copyright infringement may be inferred when it is shown that 'the defendant had access to the copyrighted work, and the accused work is substantially similar to the copyrighted work.'" Wildlife Express, 18 F.3d at 508 (quoting Atari, Inc. v. North American Philips ...


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