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Copyright Infringement

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Design Basics, LLC, et al., v. Kersteins Homes & Designs, Inc., et al.,

Case No.: 18-3202; 19-3118; 20-1515

Officials: KANNE, SCUDDER, and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Copyright Infringement

Copyright law protects individual expression while encouraging creativity and maintaining the public interest in spreading ideas. In recent years, however, a cottage industry of opportunistic copyright holders—earning the derisive moniker “intellectual property trolls”—has emerged, in which a troll enforces copyrights not to protect expression, but to extract payments through litigation. Design Basics, LLC fits that bill. The firm, which holds copyright in several thousand single-family home floor plans, has brought over 100 infringement suits against home builders in recent years. But many defendants—the targets of the settlement extraction scheme—are starting to push back. This case is a good example.

We have affirmed dismissal of Design Basics’s lawsuits twice in recent years. See Design Basics LLC v. Signature Construction, Inc., 994 F.3d 879 (7th Cir. 2021); Design Basics, LLC v. Lexington Homes, Inc., 858 F.3d 1093 (7th Cir. 2017). We do so again today. In dismissing Design Basics’s copyright infringement suit against the Kerstiens family’s home building business, the district court recognized that the firm has a thin copyright in its plans because they consist largely of standard features found in homes across America. We agree and affirm.

Affirmed

Full Text

Derek A Hawkins is Corporate Counsel, at Salesforce.

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