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Skyline Design, Inc. v. McGrory Glass, Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 23, 2014

SKYLINE DESIGN, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
McGRORY GLASS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

EDMOND E. CHANG, District Judge.

Plaintiff Skyline Design, Inc. brought this lawsuit against Defendant McGrory Glass, Inc., alleging that McGrory violated a federal copyright law, 17 U.S.C. § 501, by "importing, distributing, offering for sale, and selling" "architectural glass bearing decorative etchings" that infringe Skyline's copyright. R. 30, Amend. Compl. ¶ 1.[1] McGrory now moves for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), R. 25, Mot. J. Pleadings, and to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), R. 32, Mot. Dismiss. For the reasons discussed below, both motions [R. 25, 32] are denied.

I. Background

In 2003, Skyline created an etching design for architectural glass and named it "the Sateen." Amend. Compl. ¶ 16. Three years later, Skyline submitted a copyright application for "Sateen, " disclosing a glass panel with a pattern of randomly spaced lines of varying widths etched into both sides. Mot. Dismiss, Exh. 1. Several photographs were included with the application: a color photo of Sateen and black-and-white views of the pattern used in Sateen at scales of 100%, 116%, 132%, and 164%. Mot. Dismiss, Exh. 1; Amend. Compl., Exh. A. In the "Nature of Authorship" section on the Sateen copyright application Form VA, Skyline initially marked "3-Dimensional sculpture, " "2-Dimensional artwork, " and "Architectural work." Amend. Compl., Exh. A. In describing the "Nature of this Work, " Skyline wrote "Decorative Architectural Glass Etching." Id. And in its materials deposited with the Copyright Office, Skyline stated that Sateen was "TWO SIDED, " a "Surface etch pattern on two sides, " and that there were "Patterns on both sides." Id.

On July 12, 2006, Copyright Examiner Cynthia Hutchins informed Skyline that Sateen could not be registered as claimed because "there doesn't appear to be anything in the deposit material to support claims in 3-Dimensional Sculpture' and Architectural Work.'" Mot. Dismiss, Exh. 1. On Hutchins's recommendation, Skyline agreed to amend its application by removing the claims for "3-Dimensional Sculpture" and "Architectural Work, " leaving only the claim for "2-Dimensional Artwork." Id. In response to a separate concern by Ms. Hutchins concerning the originality of Sateen, Skyline noted that when the Sateen pattern is "etched on the front and back of a piece of glass the slightly off' character on both sides creates a discontinuity in the glass that... gives [Sateen its] copyrightable and unique character." Id. Eventually, the Copyright Office issued the copyright certificate for Sateen, under U.S. Copyright Registration No. VA X-XXX-XXX (the Sateen Copyright). Amend. Compl. ¶ 17; id. Exh. A.

In April 2007, Skyline sent a cease and desist letter to McGrory containing a copy of the Sateen Copyright, alleging that McGrory was infringing the Sateen Copyright. Amend. Compl. ¶ 44. McGrory then reviewed its product line, but did not identify any of its products as substantially similar to the Sateen Copyright, and asked Skyline for additional information regarding the basis for the infringement allegation. Id. ¶ 43. Skyline did not respond to McGrory's request for additional information until August 28, 2012, when Skyline sent McGrory a second letter alleging infringement of the Sateen Copyright. Id. ¶ 43; Amend. Compl. ¶ 44.

In December 2012, Skyline filed this lawsuit against McGrory. R. 1, Compl. Skyline alleges that McGrory infringes the Sateen Copyright by importing, offering for sale, and/or selling glass that it designates "MII-247." Amend. Compl. ¶ 46. MII-247 is supplied to McGrory by OmniDecor, S.p.A. under the name "Bi-Rain, " R. 23, Amend. Answer ¶ 24, and is a glass panel with a pattern of parallel lines etched into both sides, Id. Exh. 2. OmniDecor also supplies McGrory with a glass panel that uses the same pattern as MII-247 but only etched on a single side. Id. Exh. 1. The single-sided version is supplied under the name "Rain." Id. ¶ 50. McGrory offers Bi-Rain glass for sale in the United States. Id. ¶ 27.

II. Legal Standards

A. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

A party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion for judgment on the pleadings is subject to the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of South Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998). In ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court must "accept as true all well-pleaded allegations, " Forseth v. Vill. of Sussex, 199 F.3d 363, 368 (7th Cir. 2000), and view the alleged facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Flenner v. Sheahan, 107 F.3d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1997). Judgment on the pleadings is proper if it appears beyond doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts sufficient to support its claim for relief. Id. In ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court considers the pleadings alone, which consist of the complaint, the answer, and any documents attached as exhibits. N. Ind., 163 F.3d at 452.

B. Motion to Dismiss

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). "[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). A "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). These allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. And the allegations that are entitled to the assumption of truth are those that are factual, rather than mere legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

III. Analysis

McGrory moves to dismiss Skyline's amended complaint and for judgment on the pleadings. First up for discussion is the motion for judgment on the pleadings, which turns out to be the broader motion-in the sense that if the amended complaint survives the motion for judgment on the pleadings, it will survive the dismissal motion, too. That is because McGrory attached exhibits to its pleading and relies on those exhibits in support of the motion for judgment on the pleadings. So McGrory's motion for ...


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