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Inhale, Inc v. Starbuzz Tobacco

June 18, 2012

INHALE, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
STARBUZZ TOBACCO, INC.; WAEL SALIM ELHALAWANI; DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Otis D. Wright, II United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [40]

I.INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 40.) The Court has considered the parties' briefs, submitted evidence, and oral arguments. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART Defendants' Motion.

II.BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Inhale, Inc. designs, manufactures, and sells various types of smoking products, including hookahs. (Compl. ¶ 5.) A hookah is a device used to smoke tobacco, among other things. A hookah's design directs tobacco smoke down through a pipe and into a water container, which filters and cools the tobacco smoke for inhalation. The schematic below depicts a hookah's design and function.

A hookah typically comprises three distinct sections-a bowl, a body, and a water container. The bowl mounts on top of the body; the body mounts on top of the water container. A user places tobacco in the bowl and hot coals on top of the tobacco, causing the tobacco to smoke. As the user inhales on the hose, smoke travels from the bowl down through the body and into the water inside the water container. The water filters and cools the smoke. The filtered smoke then bubbles out of the water and is inhaled by the user through the hose.

On August 29, 2008, Plaintiff published a water container decorated with a skull and crossbones graphic. (SUF ¶ 1.) On April 21, 2011, Plaintiff registered its water container with the United States Copyright Office. (SUF ¶ 3.) Plaintiff's copyright registration is for a "sculpture/3-D artwork" titled "Hookah Water Container." (Teran Decl. Ex. D.)

On May 4, 2011, Plaintiff sued Defendants for copyright infringement, alleging Starbuzz sold water containers, beginning on December 29, 2010, that infringe Plaintiff's copyrighted design. (SUF ¶ 2.) Plaintiff alleges infringement based solely on the shape of the water container, and not on the skull and crossbones graphic. (SUF ¶ 6.) For the purposes of this lawsuit, Plaintiff disclaimed copyright protection to the skull and crossbones. (Mot. 3; SUF ¶ 6.)

Defendants seek summary judgment of noninfringement. Specifically, Defendants claim that Plaintiff cannot prevail in this action because the shape of the water container is not copyrightable. In the alternative, Defendants seek summary judgment that Plaintiff is not entitled to attorney's fees or statutory damages under the Copyright Act, if the Court finds that the shape of the water container is entitled to a copyright.

III.LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323--24 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify specific facts that show a genuine issue for trial. Id.

A genuine issue of material fact must be more than a scintilla of evidence, or evidence that is merely colorable or not significantly probative. Addisu v. Fred Meyer, 198 F.3d 1130, 1134 (9th Cir. 2000). A disputed fact is "material" where the resolution of that fact might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1968). An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. Where the moving and nonmoving parties' versions of events differ, courts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

IV.DISCUSSION

A.Copyright ...


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