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Hill v. Ohio State University T&L

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

May 29, 2013

JOHN HILL, Plaintiff,
THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY T&L, et al., Defendants.


GREGORY L. FROST, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for consideration of the following filings: a motion to strike (ECF No. 80) filed by Plaintiff, John Hill; a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 33) filed by Defendants The Ohio State University Trademark & Licensing, Richard A. Van Brimmer, The Ohio State University Marching Band, and Jon R. Woods ("The OSU Defendants"); a memorandum in opposition (ECF No. 54) filed by Hill; and a reply memorandum (ECF No. 67) filed by the OSU Defendants. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the motion to strike (ECF No. 80) and GRANTS the motion to dismiss (ECF No. 33).

I. Background

According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff, John Hill, is the holder of multiple copyrights. Several of the copyrights are of The Ohio State University Marching Band uniform design and the remaining copyrights are for other marching band or drum corps uniforms from other institutions. Hill wants to start a business in Ohio in which he would incorporate the various marching band uniforms into what he describes as useful articles. He alleges that various defendants have acted to thwart his efforts. These efforts present two basic sets of facts: one centering around The Ohio State University and one centering around the Garfield Cadets.

In 1986, Hill allegedly approached The Ohio State University Band Director Dr. Jon Woods and the band's alumni group with a tee shirt that incorporated Hill's copyrighted Marching Band Uniform design. Hill avers that his efforts only met with restrictive tactics by these parties used to deter the marketing of his design. He has approached various defendants since 1989 about the use of his designs, but he has been unable to obtain a license for his products since approximately 1990.

Hill began to apply his designs on useful articles in 2005. He also designed a sweater vest bottle koozie in 2006 to 2007, which he presented via a mutual friend to the wife of The Ohio State University's former football coach. During this same period of time, Hill was introduced to Defendants Hollywood Imprints LLC, Bradley Doss, and Davidee Doss ("the Hollywood Imprints Defendants"). Hill alleges that he and these parties entered into a relationship in which he was able to print his products while working at Hollywood Imprints LLC.

In 2006, Hill then reportedly entered into an agreement with The Ohio State University Marching Band in which they would purchase koozies to sell. Woods subsequently allegedly called Hill to halt the purchase order and told Hill that the band would later re-order. Years passed without another order occurring. Meanwhile, The Ohio State University continued to produce products that Hill asserts infringe on his copyrights. At least some of the same stores that sold these products declined to carry Hill's products, which Hill characterizes as additional evidence of an overarching conspiracy against him.

In addition to approaching The Ohio State University, Hill also purportedly approached George Hopkins, the Director of the Garfield Cadets, with a tee shirt using a copyrighted design related to that particular group in 1988. In 1989, Hill then acquired a vendor's license to market his designs at various shows throughout Ohio. He pleads that "[o]nly one show was attended, due to rain and other circumstances." (ECF No. 10 ΒΆ 6.) In addition to the weather hindering his entrepreneurial efforts, Hill encountered a cease and desist letter from Youth Education in the Arts, Inc. (identified in Hill's pleading as "The Cadets - YEA!") and Hopkins sometime in the late 1980's or early 1990's. This resulted in Hill electing not to sell or promote his products, although Hill has continued his attempts to persuade Youth Education in the Arts, Inc. and Hopkins to sell his products when he has been contacted in fundraising efforts by those entities. In 2004 and again in 2011, Hill contends that he discovered evidence of Youth Education in the Arts, Inc. selling products that infringed on his copyright.

Proceeding pro se, Hill filed the instant action in October 2012. In his Amended Complaint (ECF No. 10), which must necessarily be read in conjunction with a list of defendants generally identified by numbers in his pleading (ECF No. 9), Hill apparently asserts five claims related to the foregoing allegations of copyright infringement and breach of contract. The OSU Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss all of the claims against them. (ECF No. 33.) Hill has also filed a motion to strike the OSU Defendants' related reply memorandum. (ECF No. 80.) Briefing has closed on both of the motions, which are ripe for disposition.[1]

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Strike

In his motion to strike, Hill asks this Court to strike the OSU Defendants' reply memorandum (ECF No. 67), which they filed in support of their motion to dismiss (ECF No. 33). He also seeks costs and attorney's fees. Nowhere in his motion, however, does Hill provide this Court with any substantive reason why the reply memorandum is impermissible. Rather, he simply asserts at some length that he disagrees with the contentions set forth in the reply memorandum. This is an insufficient basis for striking a document. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Hill's motion to strike. (ECF No. 80.)

B. Motion to ...

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