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Reinicke v. Creative Empire LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 22, 2014

ALMUT REINICKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CREATIVE EMPIRE LLC, dba MANGOLANGUAGES.COM, a Michigan limited liability company; and DOES 1-10, inclusive Defendant.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS [DKT. NO. 51.]

GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant's motion for attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505. (Dkt. No. 51.) Plaintiff filed an opposition, and Defendant filed a reply. (Dkt. Nos. 59, 63.) Based on the briefs, supporting documentation, and the applicable law, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion for attorney's fees and costs.

Procedural Background

On June 11, 2012, Plaintiff Almut Reinicke ("Plaintiff" or "Reinicke") filed a complaint against Defendant Creative Empire LLC d/b/a Mangolanguages.com ("Defendant" or "Mango") alleging causes of action for copyright infringement, conversion and quantum meruit as to the Work[1] incorporated into Mango 2.0. (Dkt. No. 1.) On October 23, 2012, the case was transferred to the undersigned judge. (Dkt. No. 10.) On January 24, 2013, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, and granted in part and denied in part Defendant's motion for a more definite statement. (Dkt. No. 15.) Specifically, the Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss the second cause of action for conversion as preempted by the Copyright Act and the third cause of action for quantum meruit as preempted by the Copyright Act to the extent Plaintiff sought damages based on Defendant's sale of copies of Plaintiff's Work to the public. The Court also granted Defendant's motion to dismiss the punitive damages, statutory damages and attorney's fees prayers for relief on the first cause of action. The Court denied Defendant's motion to dismiss the quantum meruit claim to the extent the Complaint sought compensation for the creation of the Work.

On February 21, 2013, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint ("FAC") alleging causes of action for copyright infringement and quantum meruit. (Dkt. No. 16.) On August 6, 2014, the Court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the copyright infringement and quantum meruit causes of action. (Dkt. No. 48.) On the same day, judgment was entered. (Dkt. No. 49.) On August 20, 2014, Defendant filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs. (Dkt. No. 51.) On September 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. (Dkt. No. 53.) On September 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed an opposition along with a notice of errata on September 29, 2014. (Dkt. Nos. 59, 60.) On October 9, 2014, Defendant filed a reply. (Dkt. No. 63.)

Discussion

A. Whether to Defer Ruling on Motion for Attorney's Fees

Plaintiff asks the Court to defer ruling on the motion for attorney's fees in the interest of judicial economy in the event the Ninth Circuit reverses the Court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant. Defendant opposes.

The Advisory Committee Notes to the 1993 Amendments to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54 state, "[i]f an appeal on the merits of the case is taken, the court may rule on the claim for fees, may defer its ruling on the motion, or may deny the motion without prejudice, directing under subdivision(d)(2)(B) a new period for filing after the appeal has been resolved." Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d) Advisory Committee Notes on 1993 Amendments. District courts are to administer and construe the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding." Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. The Ninth Circuit expressly permits the district court to retain jurisdiction when a case is on appeal to consider a motion for attorney's fees "when the relevant circumstances [are still] fresh in the mind of the district judge." Masalosalo v. Stonewall Ins. Co., 718 F.2d 955, 957 (9th Cir.1983) (citations omitted). Moreover, there is an interest in avoiding piecemeal appeals. Id . If the district court rules on the fees motion early in the appeals process, the losing party may file an appeal from the district court's order on the motion for attorney's fees and have that appeal consolidated with the appeal on the merits. Id . The district court's continuing jurisdiction to award fees may prevent delay and duplication at the appellate level. Id. at 956-57.

Here, summary judgment was granted in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff on August 6, 2014. The facts and proceedings of the case are still fresh in the mind of the undersigned judge. In order to have a just, speedy and final determination of the entire case, the Court exercises its discretion and considers Defendant's motion for attorney's fees. Accordingly, the Court declines to defer ruling on the attorney's fees motion.

B. Award of Attorney's Fees

The Copyright Act provides that "the court may also award a reasonable attorney's fee to the prevailing party as part of the costs." 17 U.S.C. § 505. The district court has discretion to grant a prevailing party attorney's fees under the Copyright Act. Mattel, Inc. v. MGA Entm't, Inc., 705 F.3d 1108, 1111 (9th Cir. 2013). Attorney's fees are proper under this statute when either successful prosecution or successful defense of the action furthers the purposes of the Copyright Act. Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, 94 F.3d 553, 558 (9th Cir. 1996). "[A] successful defense of a copyright infringement action may further the policies of the Copyright Act every bit as much as a successful prosecution of an infringement claim by the holder of a copyright." Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517, 527 (1994).

The key factor in determining whether to award fees under the Copyright Act is whether the award will further the purposes of the Act. Fantasy v. Fogerty, 94 F.3d 553, 558 (9th Cir. 1996). The Act's "ultimate aim is... to stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good." Fogerty, 510 U.S. at 526 (quoting Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 156 (1975)).

In determining whether to award attorney's fees, the court may consider non-exclusive factors such as: (1) the degree of success obtained; (2) frivolousness of the losing party; (3) motivation of the losing party; (4) the objective unreasonableness of the losing party's factual and legal arguments; and (5) the need, in particular circumstances, to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence. See Fantasy, 94 F.3d at 534 n.19; see also Love v. Assoc. Newspapers, Ltd., 611 F.3d 601, 614 (9th Cir. 2010). Every factor does not need to be met for a court to award or deny fees. See Fantasy, Inc., 94 F.3d 553, 556-60 (upholding an award of attorney's fees based on the prevailing party's success and the policy objectives of the Copyright Act, even though the district court found that none of the "culpability" factors of frivolousness, motivation, or objective unreasonableness weighed against the losing party); see also Metcalf v. Bocho, 200 Fed Appx. 635 (9th Cir. 2006) (because half of the factors weigh in favor of defendants and half against them, district court did not abuse its discretion by denying attorneys' fees to defendants). Moreover, fees are not awarded ...


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