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SPEAR MARKETING, INC. v. SPEAR MARKETING, INC.

By Barry Werbin

An important new decision of first impression out of the Fifth Circuit in Texas, issued on June 30th, holds that state law claims based on ideas - including trade secrets - that are fixed in tangible media are preempted by Section 301(a) of the Copyright Act, despite Section 102(b) excluding from copyright protection "any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."

Section 301(a) is the preemption clause that bars state law claims concerning "all legal or equitable rights that are equivalent to any of the exclusive rights within the general scope of copyright as specified by section 106 in works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression and come within the subject matter of copyright as specified by sections 102 and 103...."

The Court explained that the interaction between Sections 301(a) and 102, based on the reasoning of a majority of Circuits that have ruled on this issue (as well as Nimmer), "clearly delineates between the purpose of federal copyright preemption and that of federal copyright protection. Congress intended the Copyright Act to protect some expressions but not others.... Finding this reasoning is persuasive, we join the majority position and hold that state law claims based on ideas fixed in tangible media are preempted by ยง301(a)."

This aligns the Fifth Circuit with the Second, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh and Ninth (en banc) Circuits, whereas the Eleventh Circuit remains in the minority on this issue.

SPEAR MARKETING, INC. v. SPEAR MARKETING, INC., No. 14-10753 (5th Cir. 6/30/2015) - SPEAR MARKETING.pdf

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 17, 2015 5:33 PM.

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