Saturday, March 20, 2010

N.D. Cal.: BMW v. Gore does not apply to awards of statutory damages in copyright and trademark cases

A federal court in the Northern District of California has squarely rejected the argument that awards of copyright statutory damages are subject to the constitutional limits on punitive damages set forth in BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996). Ruling on the defedant's post-trial motions following the jury verdict in Luis Vuitton v. Akanoc, Judge James Ware explicitly held that the Gore analysis of the ratio between actual damages and punitive damages is inapplicable in the context of copyright (and trademark) statutory damages. See order at 22-25 & n.25. The ruling could help the record label plaintiffs in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset and Joel Tenenbaum cases, should the courts ever reach the constitutional challenges to the jury verdicts. In the Thomas-Rasset case, the court remitted the jury's award of $1.92 million on common-law (not constitutional) grounds, and a similar challenge to the $675,000 verdict in the Tenenbaum case is pending.
Akanoc Order re Injunction and New Trial

This case involved Akanoc, a US web host that provided services to Chinese web stores, some of whom sold counterfeit LV products. Last September, a jury awarded LV $32.4 million for contributory trademark and copyright infringement, finding that Akanoc did not qualify for the DMCA safe harbor because it often ignored LV's takedown notice, and did not even register a DMCA agent until well after this case was filed.

(h/t Eric Goldman)

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