United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division
DENNIS PIERCE, INC., et al. PLAINTIFFS
LETITIA PIERCE, et al. DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Court discussed the factual background of this case in a
previous order. See Dennis Pierce, Inc. v. Pierce,
No. 2:16-CV-102-KS-MTP, 2017 WL 3567528, at *1 (S.D.Miss.
Aug. 17, 2017). It held a jury trial in this matter on
November 7-8, 2017. The jury returned a verdict in
Plaintiffs' favor as to Defendant's counterclaim of
copyright infringement. See Jury Verdict at 1,
Dennis Pierce, Inc. v. Pierce, No.
2:16-CV-102-KS-MTP (S.D.Miss. Nov. 9, 2017), ECF No. 84.
filed a Motion for Attorney's Fees  and a Bill of
Costs . Defendant opposes the Motion  for fees and
certain aspects of the Bill of Costs . For the reasons
below, the Court denies the Motion for
Attorney's Fee's  and sustains in part
and overrules in part Defendant's objections
 to Plaintiffs' Bill of Costs .
Motion for Attorney's Fees 
the Copyright Act, “the court in its discretion may
allow the recovery of full costs, ” and it “may .
. . award a reasonable attorney's fee to the prevailing
party as part of the costs.” 17 U.S.C. § 505. The
statute grants the Court “broad leeway” in
awarding fees. Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons,
Inc., 136 S.Ct. 1979, 1985, 195 L.Ed.2d 368 (2016).
However, the Supreme Court placed two key restrictions on the
Court's discretion. First, the Court may not “award
attorney's fees as a matter of course; rather, a court
must make a more particularized, case-by-case
assessment.” Id. (quoting Fogerty v.
Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517, 114 S.Ct. 1023, 127 L.Ed.2d
455 (1994)). Second, “a court may not treat prevailing
plaintiffs and prevailing defendants any differently;
defendants should be encouraged to litigate meritorious
copyright defenses to the same extent that plaintiffs are
encouraged to litigate meritorious claims of
Supreme Court also “noted with approval several
nonexclusive factors to inform a court's fee-shifting
decisions: frivolousness, motivation, objective
unreasonableness, and the need in particular circumstances to
advance considerations of compensation and deterrence.”
Id. The Court should place “substantial
weight” on the objective reasonableness factor, but it
should also give “due consideration” to the other
factors. Id. at 1983. Even if a losing party
advances a reasonable claim or defense, the Court may still
award fees in light of the other factors. Id.
“There is no precise rule or formula for making these
determinations, but instead equitable discretion should be
exercised in light of [these] considerations.”
Fogerty, 510 U.S. at 534.
respects, this case was a classic “he-said,
she-said” situation. Letitia Pierce claimed that she
created the disputed logo without Dennis Pierce's input;
Dennis Pierce claimed that he substantially contributed to
its creation. Letitia Pierce claimed that Dennis Pierce's
companies used the logo with her permission; Dennis Pierce
claimed that Letitia Pierce created it as a work for hire.
The parties did not even agree on basic facts such as when
Dennis Pierce started using the logo, who came up with the
general idea to create a logo, or when the disputed logo was
created. With so many basic facts in contention and the
parties providing such divergent, contentious testimony at
trial, the Court can not conclude that Ms. Pierce's
copyright infringement counterclaim was frivolous or
motivation, the Court does not believe that either party has
clean hands, and it is not inclined to award fees on this
basis. Regardless of the legal technicalities and outcome,
Dennis and Letitia Pierce literally made a federal case out
of their family squabbles. Fueled by spite, bitterness, ego,
and years of acrimony, the parties turned this Court into a
forum for their dirty laundry. The Court is not inclined to
award either party in these circumstances.
law ultimately serves the purpose of enriching the general
public through access to creative works.”
Kirtsaeng, 136 S.Ct. at 1986. The general public is
not enriched by family members using federal copyright law as
a means of harassing one another. In that respect, the Court
does not believe considerations of compensation and
deterrence are particularly applicable here, in light of the
unique situation and, in the Court's opinion, the unclean
hands on both sides of the case. The Court denies Dennis
Pierce's motion for attorney's fees.
Bill of Costs
permits the Court to award costs to the prevailing party.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1). Congress limited the recoverable costs
to certain categories. See 28 U.S.C. § 1920.
The Court “may only award those costs articulated in
section 1920 absent explicit statutory or contractual
authorization to the contrary.” Gagnon v. United
Technisource Inc., 607 F.3d 1036, 1045 (5th Cir. 2010).
“[C]ourts are not accountants and [parties] should not
be tagged with either costs or expense bills that are
horseback estimates. Those who are entitled to recover costs
and expenses bear the burden of furnishing a reasonable
accounting.” Copper Liquor, Inc. v. Adolph Coors
Co., 684 F.2d 1087, 1099 (5th Cir. 1982), overruled
on other grounds, 790 F.2d 1174 (5th Cir. 1986).
However, there is “a strong presumption that the
prevailing party is prima facie entitled to costs and it is
incumbent on the losing party to overcome that presumtion
since denial of costs is in the nature of a penalty.”
Marmillion v. Am. Int'l Ins. Co., 381 Fed.Appx.
421, 429 (5th Cir. 2010).
filed a Bill of Costs for $2, 807.13. Defendant made several
objections to the Bill of Costs, which the Court now
Defendant argues that Plaintiffs provided inadequate
justification for costs associated with depositions.
Plaintiffs requested $1, 823.50 for depositions of Darian
Pierce, Elisa Pierce Collins, Letitia Pierce, and Jeffery