Friday, January 10, 2014

Ninth Circuit Buzzkill !...

Inhale, Inc. v. Starbuzz Tobacco, Inc. (U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Filed Jan. 9, 2014; CIte as 2014 DJDAR 281).

The Ninth Circuit just told the Plaintiff-Appellant, Inhale, Inc., to put that in their pipe and smoke it, in affirming the District Court's ruling affirming summary judgment in favor of the Defendant-Appellee, Stabuzz Tobacco, Inc., and agreeing that the shape of a hookah water pipe-container is not copyrightable.

Per the 9th Circuit opinion, "The parties agree that Inhale's hookah water container is a "useful article".  Additionally, the court stated, "As 'the design of a useful article,' the shape of the container is copyrightable 'only if, and only to the extent, it incorporates... sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the' container."  This statutory standard is satisfied by either physical or conceptual separability and because Inhale did not claim physical separability, the court considered only conceptual separability in its review.

The 9th Circuit concluded that "The shape of a container is not independent of the container's utilitarian function - to hold the contents within its shape - because the shape accomplishes the function."

Finally, the 9th Circuit indicated that the District Court also exercised its discretion properly by awarding the Defendant-Appellee, Starbuzz Tobacco, its attorneys' fees.  Additionally, the 9th Circuit separately awarded to Starbuzz Tobacco its attorneys' fees for the defense of this appeal, in an amount to be determined by the district court. 

Talk about a total buzzkill?!...  AFFIRMED AND REMANDED.


Respectfully submitted,

William E. Maguire
Trademark • Copyright • Licensing

***   ***   ***

No comments: