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Boisson v. Banian, Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
273 F.3d 262 (2001)


Facts

Judi Boisson (plaintiff) designed two quilts, School Days I and School Days II, that depicted the alphabet as capital letters and some pictures in square blocks. School Days I showed the alphabet in five horizontal rows, grouping letters in the rows as follows: A-E, F-J, K-O, P-T, U-Y, and Z, with four pictures. The pictures were a cat, a house, a single-starred American flag, and a basket. The letters were depicted in a variety of contrasting fabrics, with either solid colors or polka dots. Schools Days II used a different arrangement of the letters in red, white, and blue. Vijay Rao (defendant), president and owner of Banian, Limited (Banian) (defendant), imported three quilts from India that depicted the letters of the alphabet in square blocks. All the quilts, by both Boisson and Banian, used diamond stitching inside of the blocks, with wavy stitching around the borders. Banian’s three quilts were ABC Green Version I (Green I), ABC Green Version II (Green II), and ABC Navy. The coloring and pattern contrasting on 20 of the letters were essentially the same on School Days I, Green I, and Green II. The layout of the blocks on Green I and Green II were five horizontal rows of letters, also grouped A-E, F-J, K-O, P-T, U-Y, and Z with four pictures. The pictures in Green I were a cow, a sailboat, a bear, and a star. The pictures in Green II replaced Green I’s bear with a teddy bear in a flag vest. Boisson sued Rao and Banian for copyright infringement. The district court ruled that the Banian quilts were not substantially similar to Boisson’s quilts after a bench trial. The district court used a more discerning substantial-similarity test, because elements of the quilts were in the public domain, but the court’s analysis did not consider the arrangement of the elements in addition to the individual elements. Boisson appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Cardamone, J.)

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