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Blehm v. Jacobs
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
702 F.3d 1193 (2012)
Gary Blehm (plaintiff) was a commercial artist who developed characters called Penmen in the late 1980s. Blehm created rules and guidelines for drawing each Penman character. The Penmen were simple-looking figures with round heads, disproportionately large half-moon smiles, four fingers, large feet, disproportionately long legs, and a message of unbridled optimism. Eventually, Blehm developed and sold six copyrighted posters featuring hundreds of black-and-white Penmen in various poses, challenging purchasers to find identical Penmen within each poster. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, Albert and John Jacobs (defendants), through the Life is Good Co. (defendant), developed and sold t-shirts featuring an image of a figure called Jake, often portrayed engaging in common activities such as biking or hiking, with the words “Life is Good” underneath the image. Jake was a simple figure with a round face, wide smile, sunglasses, beret, and a message of optimism. In 2009, Blehm filed a complaint against Life is Good, claiming that various Jake images infringed his copyrighted works. The district court granted Life is Good’s motion for summary judgment, finding that no infringement occurred because the copyrighted and accused works were not substantially similar. Blehm appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Matheson, J.)
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