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Tufenkian Import/Export Ventures, Inc. v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
338 F.3d 127 (2003)


In 1995, James Tufenkian (plaintiff) obtained copyright registration for a carpet design entitled Floral Heriz (the Heriz design). Tufenkian created the Heriz design by taking two carpet designs from the public domain and selectively adapting elements from each of the public-domain works. For example, Tufenkian selectively removed certain elements from one of the designs to produce a cleaner overall look and then adapted the frame from the other design. Tufenkian also made the Heriz design asymmetrical by copying only a portion of the symmetrical design of one of the public-domain works. In 1995, a former employee of Tufenkian was hired by Bashian Brothers, Inc. (Bashian) (defendant), a competitor in the carpet business, to design a carpet entitled Bromley 514 (the Bromley design). The Bromley design also incorporated design elements from the same two public-domain works utilized in the Heriz design and used a structural layout that was nearly identical to the Heriz design. Tufenkian brought a copyright-infringement suit in 1999, and the district court found that Tufenkian had a valid copyright in the Heriz design and that the Bromley design had actually copied the Heriz design. However, the court held that the Bromley design was not substantially similar to the protectable elements of the Heriz design and dismissed the infringement claim. Specifically, the court found that Bashian’s copying was limited to unprotectable elements that Heriz had taken from public-domain works and that the original contributions to the Heriz and Bromley designs had resulted in a different look and feel for each design. Tufenkian appealed the decision.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Calabresi, J.)

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