August 18, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Prima Facie Case of Copyright Infringement Shown

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Enterprise Management Limited v. Warrick on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.

In 1987, Mary Lippitt created and registered a diagram aimed to encapsulate and communicate the results of her research on the failures of complex organizational change initiatives. Sometime around 1996, Lippitt revised the diagram, and updated it slightly. Warrick, who teaches in the organizational development field, admitted receiving Lippitt’s diagram from a student. He incorporated and used a similar diagram in his course materials and in his consulting business. Although Warrick did not initially know Lippitt was the diagram’s creator, he later discovered this fact and began to credit her work at the bottom of his diagram.

Lippit sued Warrick for copyright infringement.  Warrick moved for summary judgment. As pertinent to this appeal, Warrick argued: (1) Lippitt could not prove she held a valid copyright on the diagram because she could not produce the diagram from the materials accompanying her 1987 registration to show its similarity to Warrick’s diagram. (2) Lippitt’s diagram was not copyrightable; and (3) Warrick’s diagram did not infringe on any protected expression in Lippitt’s diagram. After hearing arguments, the court granted Warrick’s motion. Lippit appealed.

On appeal, Lippitt contended she demonstrated a prima facie case of copyright infringement. The Tenth Circuit agreed.

There are two elements to a copyright infringement claim; a plaintiff must show both ownership of a valid copyright, and copying of protectable constituent elements of the work. La Resolana Architects, PA v. Reno, Inc., 555 F.3d 1171, 1177-78 (10th Cir. 2009). In construing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Lippitt, the Tenth Circuit found she demonstrated a prima facie case of both elements.

First, because there are many ways to express the ideas depicted in Lippitt’s diagram, the expression does not “merge” with the underlying ideas and were therefore eligible for copyright protection. Second, the Court saw protectable creative insight in Lippitt’s arrangement and choice of expression. Further, the parties’ arguments about the evidence of copying are perplexing because the parties seem to agree on the salient point: Warrick admitted he copied Lippitt’s diagram.


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  1. […] developed when developing your IP portfolio.  In late May of this year, the Tenth Circuit in Enterprise Management Ltd. V. Warrick found that an organizational management diagram was indeed eligible for copyright protection. The […]

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