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Livia v. Sly, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 17, 2018

Livia d/b/a ECS, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
Sly, Inc., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

          PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN, United States District Court Chief Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Sly, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Or, Alternatively, For a More Definite Statement (Doc. 6). This is a copyright infringement action. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1) is DISMISSED.

         FACTS

         Pro se Plaintiff Livia d/b/a ECS, Inc.[1] brings this lawsuit against Defendant Sly, Inc., alleging copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. §§ 501-504. Plaintiff also references 15 U.S.C. Chapter 107 as a basis for the Court's jurisdiction over her claim.

         Plaintiff alleges that she is the author of a “digital business tool” for which she owns a copyright. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 3, 4(a)). According to Plaintiff, she created this work while working for Defendant, Sly, Inc. (Doc. 1, ¶ 4(b)-(c)). She claims that after she stopped working for Defendant, she incorporated ECS, Inc. and “pursued the intellectual property route.” Id. at ¶ 4(d). Plaintiff alleges that the digital business tool she developed is used “in the sales process of Sly, Inc. products.” Id. at ¶ 4(a). She also states that a “training manual” was tested and completed for Defendant's use that was “based on [her] proof-of-concept manuscript.” Id. at ¶ 4(c). Plaintiff has asked the Court to grant her the authority to exercise her copyright via injunction, and for damages.

         Defendant filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiff failed to set forth any allegations of copying and did not state a cognizable claim for relief under copyright law. In the alternative, Defendant requested that the Court order Plaintiff to file a new complaint presenting a more definite statement so that Defendant can adequately respond.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “Dismissal is appropriate when a plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). We assume the factual allegations in the complaint are true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Comtide Holdings, LLC v. Booth Creek Management Corp., 2009 WL 1884445 (6th Cir. July 2, 2009) (citing Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008)). In construing the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, “the court does not accept the bare assertion of legal conclusions as enough, nor does it accept as true unwarranted factual inferences.” Gritton v. Disponett, 2009 WL 1505256 (6th Cir. May 27, 2009) (citing In re Sofamor Danek Group, Inc., 123 F.3d 394, 400 (6th Cir.1997)). As outlined by the Sixth Circuit:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). However, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570. A plaintiff must “plead[ ] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

Keys v. Humana, Inc., 684 F.3d 605, 608 (6th Cir. 2012). Thus, Twombly and Iqbal require that the complaint contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face based on factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         ANALYSIS

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because Plaintiff has not alleged the elements necessary to sustain a claim for copyright infringement or any other cause of action. The Copyright Act gives copyright owners exclusive rights to reproduce, prepare derivative works from, distribute, and publicly perform or display a copyrighted work. 17 U.S.C. § 106. The Act also allows “the legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under a copyright . . . to institute an action for any infringement of that particular right.” 17 U.S.C. § 501(b). To prevail on a copyright infringement claim, a plaintiff must prove (1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original. Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991); Severe Records, LLC v. Rich, 658 F.3d 571, 579 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[T]o succeed in a copyright infringement action, a plaintiff must establish that he or she owns the copyrighted creation, and that the defendant copied it.”).[2] The Sixth Circuit has held that claims of copyright infringement require greater particularity in pleading, through showing “plausible grounds, ” because such claims lend themselves readily to abusive litigation. Nat'l Bus. Devel. Servs., Inc. v. American Credit Educ. and Consulting, Inc., 2008 WL 4772074 (6th Cir. Oct. 31, 2008).

         Defendant does not challenge whether Plaintiff can establish the validity of her copyright, focusing instead on the second element required to state a claim for infringement. Defendant argues that Plaintiff failed to allege that Defendant copied any portion of her copyrighted work. Defendant also argues that Plaintiff has not adequately indicated which of Defendant's products infringed ...


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