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Ronaldo Designer Jewelry, Inc. v. Cox

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

July 16, 2019

RONALDO DESIGNER JEWELRY, INC. PLAINTIFF
v.
JAMES B. COX and CATHERINE A. COX d/b/a JC DESIGNS d/b/a WIRE N RINGS and JOHN DOE a/k/a LEROY and JOHN DOES No. 1 through 99 DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This intellectual property case is before the Court on “Defendants James B. Cox and Catherine A. Cox's Motion for Issuance of Request to Register of Copyrights pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 411(b)(2).” Doc. #143.

         I Procedural History

         On April 28, 2017, Ronaldo Designer Jewelry, Inc. (“Ronaldo Inc.”) filed a second amended complaint in this case against James B. Cox and Catherine A. Cox d/b/a JC Designs d/b/a Wire N Rings, John Doe a/k/a Leroy, and John Does Numbers 1 through 99, alleging, among other things, claims for copyright infringement for various wire bracelets. Doc. #82. On September 2, 2018, the Coxes, alleging that “the information … Ronaldo provided in its copyright applications … for the Power of Prayer jewelry design and the Angelina jewelry design … was materially inaccurate and incomplete, ” moved this Court pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 411(b)(2) to issue a request to the Register of Copyrights to determine whether the Register would have refused Ronaldo Inc.'s registrations in light of the alleged inaccurate or missing information. Doc. #143 at 1.

         On April 24, 2019, after full briefing on the motion, this Court entered an order finding that the parties applied the incorrect legal standard in their briefs. Doc. #316. Accordingly, the Court directed Ronaldo Inc. to file a supplemental response and granted the Coxes leave to file a supplemental reply. Id. at 7. Ronaldo Inc. filed its supplemental response on May 1, 2019. Doc. #317. The Coxes filed their supplemental reply seven days later. Doc. #318.

         On May 15, 2019, Ronaldo Inc. moved to strike certain allegations and arguments in the Coxes' supplemental reply or, alternatively, for leave to file a supplemental sur-reply. Doc. #319. The Court denied Ronaldo Inc.'s request to strike but granted it leave to file a supplemental sur-reply. Doc. #323. Ronaldo Inc. filed the supplemental sur-reply on June 21, 2019. Doc. #324.

         II Standard

         Requests to the Register of Copyrights are authorized by 17 U.S.C. § 411(b), which provides:

(1) A certificate of registration satisfies the requirements of this section and section 412, regardless of whether the certificate contains any inaccurate information, unless--
(A) the inaccurate information was included on the application for copyright registration with knowledge that it was inaccurate; and
(B) the inaccuracy of the information, if known, would have caused the Register of Copyrights to refuse registration.
(2) In any case in which inaccurate information described under paragraph (1) is alleged, the court shall request the Register of Copyrights to advise the court whether the inaccurate information, if known, would have caused the Register of Copyrights to refuse registration.

         As this Court previously explained, § 411(b)(2) requires referral

in any case in which inaccurate information described under paragraph (1) is alleged. Paragraph (1), in turn, refers to information included in a copyright application that is (1) inaccurate; (2) provided with knowledge of its inaccuracy; and (3) would have resulted in a refusal of the copyright application. Accordingly, referral is required when a movant, in compliance with Rule 11, sets forth good-faith allegations that specific information included in a copyright application satisfies these three requirements.

Doc. #316 at 6 (quotation marks and alterations omitted).

         Allegations and arguments are made in good faith under Rule 11 when (1) they are not presented for any improper purpose; (2) they are “warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;” (3) factual allegations, if any, “have evidentiary support” or are likely to have evidentiary support after an opportunity for investigation; and (4) denials of factual allegations, if any, “are warranted on the evidence, or are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.” See Fed. R. Civ. P.11(b).[1]

         III Analysis

         In their motion and supplemental reply, [2] the Coxes argue that Ronaldo Inc.'s 2011 copyright application for its Power of Prayer bracelet and 2013 copyright application for its Angelina bracelet contained knowing material misrepresentations because Ronaldo (1) was not the claimant or owner of either of the works; (2) was not the author of either of the works; and (3) “did not identify or exclude the substantial portions of each bracelets that were in the public domain, common, or previously published at the time the application was filed.” Doc. #318 at 2.

         To understand the Coxes' contentions regarding Ronaldo Inc.'s applications, it is necessary to trace the history of the intellectual property rights to the two bracelets. Ronnie Needham, while the owner of Gold Craft Associates, Inc., created the Power of Prayer Bracelet in 1995, and the Angelina Bracelet in 2000.[3] There is no dispute that Gold Craft obtained the intellectual property rights to the bracelets. On July 9, 2008, Ronaldo Inc. was formed by, according to ...


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