Inhale, Inc. claims copyright protection in the shape of a hookah water container that it first published on August 29, 2008 and registered with the United States Copyright Office on April 21, 2011. At both the time of publication and the time of registration, the container included skull-andcrossbones images on the outside.
Less than a month after registration, Inhale sued Starbuzz Tobacco, Inc. and Wael Salim Elhalawani (collectively, “Starbuzz”) for copyright infringement. Inhale claimed that Starbuzz sold hookah water containers that were identical in shape to Inhale’s container. The allegedly infringing containers did not contain skull-and-crossbones images. After determining that the shape of the water container is not copyrightable, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Starbuzz.
Because “ownership of a valid copyright” is an element of copyright infringement, Feist Publ’ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991), summary judgment was appropriate if the shape of Inhale’s hookah water container is not copyrightable.
The parties agree that Inhale’s hookah water container is a “useful article.” As “the design of a useful article,” the shape of the container is copyrightable “only if, and only to the extent that, [it] incorporates . . . sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the” container. 17 U.S.C. § 101 (defining “[p]ictorial, graphic, and sculptural works”); id. § 102(a)(5) (granting copyright protection to “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works”).
Judge(s): Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
|Circuit Court Judge(s)|
|Trial Court Judge(s)|
|Otis Wright, II|
|Plaintiff Lawyer(s)||Plaintiff Law Firm(s)|
|Louis Teran||SLC Law Group|
|Defendant Lawyer(s)||Defendant Law Firm(s)|
|Natu Patel||The Patel Law Firm PC|