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Malibu Textiles, Inc. v. Label Lane International, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

April 24, 2019

Malibu Textiles, Inc., a New York corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Label Lane International, Inc., a California Corporation; Entry, Inc., DBA ALT B., a California Corporation, Defendants-Appellees. Malibu Textiles, Inc., a New York corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
H&M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P., a New York limited partnership, Defendant-Appellee. MALIBU TEXTILES, INC., a New York corporation, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
H&M HENNES & MAURITZ, L.P., a New York limited partnership, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted January 7, 2019 Pasadena, California

          Appeals from the United States District Court for the Central District of California Manuel L. Real, District Judge, Presiding D.C. Nos. 2:14-cv-04054-R-MAN, 2:14-cv-01018-R-E, 2:14-cv-01018-R-E

          Stephen Doniger (argued), Frank Gregory Casella, and Scott A. Burroughs, Doniger/Burroughs APC, Venice, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Neal J. Gauger (argued) and Staci Jennifer Riordan, Nixon Peabody LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: A. Wallace Tashima and Paul J. Watford, Circuit Judges, and Jack Zouhary, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Copyright

         The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of two copyright infringement actions, dismissed a cross-appeal regarding attorney fees as moot, and remanded.

         Malibu Textiles claimed that defendants infringed its copyrights for two floral lace designs. The panel held that, on remand following prior appeal, Malibu sufficiently alleged ownership of valid, registered copyrights. Malibu also successfully pled striking similarity between its designs and defendants' designs. The panel further held that the district court abused its discretion in denying Malibu leave to amend its allegations of access for a theory of substantial similarity.

         The panel dismissed as moot one defendant's cross-appeal from the district court's denial of its motion for attorney fees.

          OPINION

          ZOUHARY, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Introduction

         Five years ago, Plaintiff-Appellant Malibu Textiles filed these copyright infringement lawsuits against Defendants-Appellees Label Lane International, Entry, and H&M Hennes & Mauritz (collectively, "Defendants"), accusing them of illegally copying Malibu's lace designs. And for five years, these cases have languished at the pleading stage. The cases are now before this Court for a second time, after the district court again denied leave to amend and dismissed with prejudice. We again reverse and remand.

         Background

         In 2014, Malibu sued Defendants for copyright infringement. Malibu alleges it owns copyrights for two lace designs, consisting of flowers, vines, leaves, and other elements arranged in a pattern. Malibu refers to these two designs collectively as the Subject Work and alleges Defendants infringed on both.

         The first appeal came after the district court dismissed the cases with prejudice for failure to state a claim. This Court reversed, stating that "[d]ismissal with prejudice is appropriate only if the complaint 'could not be saved by any amendment.'" Malibu Textiles, Inc. v. Label Lane Int'l, Inc., 668 Fed.Appx. 803, 803 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Leadsinger, Inc. v. BMG Music Publ'g, 512 F.3d 522, 532 (9th Cir. 2008)); Malibu Textiles, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P., 668 Fed.Appx. 800, 801 (9th Cir. 2016) (same). This Court concluded that Malibu could fix its Complaints by adding more allegations of similarity between the ...


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