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Esquire, Inc. v. Ringer

591 F.2d 796 (1978)

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Esquire, Inc. v. Ringer

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

591 F.2d 796 (1978)

Facts

Esquire, Inc. (plaintiff) applied for a copyright for its modern design of a light fixture, asserting that the light design was a copyrightable work of art pursuant to the Copyright Act of 1909. The Register of Copyrights (the register) (defendant) denied the application, determining that—pursuant to regulation 37 C.F.R. § 202.10(c)—the light fixture was a utilitarian article and that its design could not be separated from its useful functions and thus was not copyrightable. Esquire filed suit in district court seeking a writ of mandamus to have its copyright registered, arguing that § 202.10(c) allowed copyright registration for the overall shape or design of a utilitarian article as long as the article was a work of art, i.e., that it was sufficiently original and creative. The register argued that § 202.10(c) precluded registration of a copyright for the overall shape or design of a utilitarian article regardless of its artistic qualities because the designs of most consumer products include aesthetic considerations. The district court granted the writ, holding that to do otherwise would go against Supreme Court precedent and afford modern art less protection than traditional art. The register appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bazelon, J.)

Concurrence (Leventhal, J.)

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