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Date: 02-24-2022

Case Style:

Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P.

Case Number: 20-915

Judge: Breyer

Court: Supreme Court of the United States

Plaintiff's Attorney: Not Available

Defendant's Attorney: Not Available

Description: A valid copyright registration provides a copyright holder with important
legal advantages, including the right to bring a “civil action for in-
fringement” of the copyrighted work. 17 U. S. C. §411(a). Petitioner
Unicolors, the owner of copyrights in various fabric designs, filed a copy-
right infringement action against H&M Hennes & Mauritz (H&M). A
jury found in favor of Unicolors. H&M sought judgment as a matter of
law, arguing that Unicolors could not maintain an infringement suit
because Unicolors knowingly included inaccurate information on its
registration application, rendering its copyright registration invalid.
The alleged inaccuracy stemmed from Unicolors having filed a single
application seeking registration for 31 separate works despite a Copy-
right Office regulation that provides that a single application may
cover multiple works only if they were “included in the same unit of
publication.” H&M argued that Unicolors did not meet this require-
ment because Unicolors had initially made some of the 31 designs
available for sale exclusively to certain customers, while offering the
rest to the general public. The District Court determined that because
Unicolors did not know when it filed its application that it had failed
to satisfy the “single unit of publication” requirement, Unicolors’ copy-
right registration remained valid by operation of the safe harbor pro-
vision provided under §411(b)(1)(A). On appeal, the Ninth Circuit de-
termined that it did not matter whether Unicolors was aware that it
had failed to satisfy the single unit of publication requirement, because
the safe harbor excuses only good-faith mistakes of fact, not law. Uni-
colors had known the relevant facts, so its knowledge of the law (or
lack thereof ) was irrelevant

Outcome: Vacated and remanded.

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