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Fergon Architects LLC v. Oakley Home Builders, Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 30, 2014



MARY M. ROWLAND, Magistrate Judge.

Fergon Architects, LLC brings this action against Oakley Home Builders, Inc. alleging, among other things, that Oakley built unauthorized homes based on Fergon's copyrighted home designs. Oakley moves to dismiss, arguing that Fergon's federal claims are improperly plead and the state claims are preempted. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the Motion with respect to the federal claims, but grants it with respect to the state claims.

I. Factual Background

The following facts are drawn from Fergon's complaint. They are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion, and are viewed in the light most favorable to Fergon. Cole v. Milwaukee Are Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011). Fergon alleges that, from September 21, 2005 to November 29, 2011, it provided Oakley with architectural designs for approximately 40 homes. Fergon provided each of the designs to Oakley under individual contracts that contained substantially the same language. Those contracts allowed Oakley to build one home from each Fergon Design. Oakley agreed to credit Fergon as the designer of the Fergon home designs in any promotional materials. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 1-4).

Fergon alleges that Oakley took credit not only for the construction of the homes built, but for the architectural designs. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 11-36). Fergon also alleges that Oakley went on to sell Fergon's home designs, and built additional homes based on those designs, without compensation or credit to Fergon. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 37-41).

On August 23, 2013, Fergon filed suit against Oakley, alleging the following causes of action: Count I, copyright infringement; Count II, false advertising under the Landham Act; Count III, violation of the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act ("UDTPA"); Count IV, violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act; and Count V, unfair competition in violation of Illinois common law. On October 22, 2013 Oakley filed the instant motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 26-1 at 1-2).

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the suit. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff, as well as any reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those facts. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); see also Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1082 (7th Cir. 2008).

To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 ( quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80(1957)).

III. Analysis

A. Copyright Infringement - Count I

In Count I, Fergon alleges that Oakley violated the Copyright Act by "making unauthorized copies and reproductions of" Fergon's home designs, "selling copies of those designs to third parties, " "preparing derivative works based on those designs, " and "constructing houses based on those designs." (Dkt. 1 ¶ 51). Oakley asserts that Fergon's copyright allegations are insufficiently specific to state a claim for copyright infringement. (Dkt. 26-1 at 3 ("the Complaint does not contain any specific allegations such that Oakley actually made any copies of the copyrighted designs, sold the designs [to] named entities or individuals on any certain dates, prepared derivative works based upon the copyrighted designs, or actually constructed a house using the copyrighted designs.").

To state a claim for copyright infringement, a plaintiff must allege (1) ownership of a valid copyright; and (2) unauthorized copying of protected elements. Golden v. Nadler, Pritikin & Mirabelli, 2010 WL 5373876 at *1 (N.D. Ill.Dec.21, 2010) (citing Mid America Title Co. v. Kirk, 991 F.2d 417, 421-22 (7th Cir. 1993)). Where plaintiff has granted defendant a license, he must allege that the license was limited in scope and that the scope of the license has been exceeded. Bergt v. McDougal Littell, 661 F.Supp.2d 916, 921 (N.D. Ill. 2009).

Fergon has met those pleading requirements in this case. Although Fergon does not allege specific details as to each infringing act (such as where exactly Oakley built the duplicate homes, or to whom exactly it sold the plans), that level of detail is not required to state a claim for copyright infringement. Frerck v. Pearsons Educ., Inc., No. 11 CV 5319, 2012 WL 1280771, at *2-3 (N.D. Ill. April 16, 2012) ...

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