MD District Court Denies Attorneys' Fees

Friday, September 15, 2017

After the jury had found that Exterior Design, Inc. infringed the copyrighted plant photographs of Under a Foot Plant, Co., and awarded plaintiff actual and statutory damages, U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth Gesner denied Under a Foot’s motion under 17 U.S.C § 412 for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs.  In reaching her decision, the Magistrate Judge balanced four factors.  First, the Magistrate Judge found that Under a Foot had not alleged that Exterior Design proceeded in bad faith or engaged in misconduct.  Second, although the jury found for Under a Foot on the issue of willfulness, the Exterior Design’s arguments were reasonable and its evidence was not insubstantial.  Third, an award of attorneys’ fees was determined to do little to advance the compensation and deterrence goals of the Copyright Act given that Under a Foot had secured substantial damages and a permanent injunction.  Fourth, the Magistrate Judge gave no weight to Under a Foot’s assertion that Exterior Design took an obstinate and unreasonable approach to settlement negotiations, finding that Under a Foot’s demand for a six-figure offer as a precondition for participating in court-supervised mediation was the type of demand that typically derailed settlement discussions.  Under a Foot Plant, Co. v. Exterior Design, Inc., No. BPG-15-871, 2017 WL 3840260 (D. Md. Sep. 1, 2017).