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Roth Greeting Cards v. United Card Co.

429 F.2d 1106 (9th Cir. 1970)

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Roth Greeting Cards v. United Card Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

429 F.2d 1106 (9th Cir. 1970)

Facts

Roth Greeting Cards (plaintiff) sued United Card Company (defendant) for producing seven greeting cards closely resembling Roth’s copyrighted cards. For example, one Roth card showed a cartoon drawing of a sad boy crying on the front with the caption, “I miss you already,” and inside read, “and You Haven’t even Left.” United’s card bore a cartoon drawing of a sad man crying, the identical caption and inside message, with only minor variations in color and style. The trial court found Roth’s artwork copyrightable but found that United’s cards were not infringing even though United had copied the wording of Roth’s cards. The court reasoned that the wording used common, ordinary English words and phrases already in the public domain before Roth copyrighted its cards. Roth appealed, arguing that the arrangement of the wording coupled with appropriate artwork as a whole warranted copyright protection.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hamley, J.)

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