Mistakes on Copyright Applications May Invalidate Your Registrations - Purple Fox Legal

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Mistakes on Copyright Applications May Invalidate Your Registrations

06.1.2022

By Purple Fox Legal

June 1, 2022

When applying for a new copyright registration, quite a bit of information is required. And, submitting all of the facts and evidence in the application can be more difficult than you might imagine. Because of this, many copyright applications contain inaccuracies and discrepancies. These mistakes increase the risk of having your copyright registration invalidated, but inaccuracies don’t guarantee invalidation.

The U.S. Copyright Office knows and understands how complicated the registration process can be. And, to help streamline things and prevent the rejection of otherwise perfectly valid copyright registrations, some safe harbor protections have been put into place. This means that, despite the existence of inaccuracies in an application, the U.S. Copyright Office should still approve it “unless the inaccurate information was included…with the knowledge that it was inaccurate.”

This article discusses when a copyright registration is at risk of being invalidated. This article explores a recent U.S. Supreme Court case to illustrate how important it is to ensure your copyright registration applications contain accurate, comprehensive information.

Unicolors, Inc v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP

In 2022, an LA-based fabric manufacturing and design company, known as Unicolors, Inc., successfully won a lawsuit against the H&M clothing company for copyright infringement. The lawsuit was simple – H&M was using several geometric designs on its products without permission from Unicolors, which had valid copyright registrations for the designs. However, H&M didn’t think it was doing anything wrong. Instead, H&M contested the copyright infringement suit brought by Unicolors, and H&M claimed that its actions were justified because the copyright registrations for the designs were invalid. 

The issue, according to H&M, was that the designs in question were part of a registration that included 31 different geometric designs. However, in order to truly register multiple works under one copyright registration, they must be included in one single, bundled collection. In an accidental legal error, Unicolors failed to do this. So, according to H&M, the copyright registration was invalid. Because the lawsuit indicated a Circuit Split, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to get involved. 

Safe Harbor Provision in 17 U.S.C. § 411(b)(1)(A)

While reviewing the case, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that, because most copyright applicants are simply creators “without legal training,” they should not be punished for unintended errors on their copyright registration applications. The Court explained that the Safe Harbor Provision, which exists to help remedy unintentional mistakes made on copyright applications, doesn’t even distinguish a difference between mistakes of law or fact. Based on its analysis, the U.S. Supreme Court held that unintentional mistakes do not invalidate copyright registrations, and Unicolors’ copyright registration remained enforceable against H&M.

While there is still no room for “willful blindness” in a copyright application, registrants can rest easy knowing that the safe harbor provision exists to help

Obtaining a Valid Copyright Registration Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

While there are protections in place to aid those looking to file a copyright registration application, there is still a lot of research and effort that must be done during the registration process. And, as mentioned above, there is no room for willful blindness. To get the most protection out of your copyright registration, consider reaching out to an experienced attorney to help before starting the process. This will ensure everything is filed right the first time and help protect you for years to come.