Friday, June 21, 2013

Copyright Law: Substantial Similarity of Stick Figures

Blehm v. Jacobs, 2012 WL 6700437 (10th Cir. December 27, 2012).  Blehm created a series of stick figure characters called Penmen.  Examples below:

Blehm sued Life Is Good, a company that developed a character named Jake
Jake gets involved in many action situations

for copyright infringement.  The district court granted summary judgment.  The 10th Circuit granted summary judgment, affirming the holding that no reasonable jury could conclude that Penmen and Jake were substantially similar.  The court’s opinion consists largely of a careful parsing of elements dictated by the idea of a stick figure in action (unprotectable ideas) and comparing the elements that were the result of creative choices.   The court concluded that the images were so dissimilar so that no reasonable jury could have found substantial similarity.  Check out the opinion yourself, you will find 67 side by side illustrations that are fun and creative.  Judge for yourself, but some of Jake’s poses appear to be “inspired” – others not so much.
 Purchase Copyright Litigation Handbook 2012-2013 by Raymond J. Dowd from West here  

No comments: