Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine Wins Federal Copyright, Trademark Battle in Houston
April 22, 2014
HOUSTON – A Houston area federal judge has ruled in favor of the publishers of Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine after finding that the magazine’s nameplate does not violate the copyright on a logo used by a similarly named fishing website.
U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa last week tossed out a copyright claim filed by the owner of TexasSaltwaterFishing.com after finding that the words “Texas Saltwater Fishing” are not copyrightable. While granting the summary judgment motion, the judge also ruled that the nameplate for Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine and the website’s logo were so dissimilar that a jury could not find copyright infringement.
“These clients are passionate about their sport and their publication and they’re extremely pleased to continue to use the image that embodies the spirit of the sport they love. Our clients’ nameplate features the image of an angler dubbed ‘Plugger George’ and it was drawn by a contributor for the magazine,” says attorney Jane Robinson of Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing, P.C., or AZA. Ms. Robinson served as counsel for the magazine, which also was represented by AZA lawyers Tim Shelby and Megan Bibb.
The court’s decision details the nameplates and logo in question, including pictures of both, which use images of silhouetted fishermen. The judge was detailed in his comparative analysis.
“Another important distinction is what the two fishermen are doing. Plugger George is so named because he is an angle fisher who uses a plug-style lure. His back is arched and his fishing line is bent because of the weight of the fish he struggles to catch,” Judge Costa notes in the ruling. “Meanwhile, (the website’s) fisherman is peaceful as he fishes; the water barely moves beneath him. He does not appear to be struggling with his catch, because otherwise, his fishing line would not be almost perpendicular to his body.”
Judge Costa also found that he did not have jurisdiction over the website’s remaining state law claim of unfair competition. The plaintiff originally sued for trademark infringement and dilution, but was forced to drop those claims after acknowledging that he could not prevent other people from using the phrase “Texas Saltwater Fishing.”
The case is Steve Stutts, dba TexasSaltwaterFishing.com, et al., v. Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine Inc., No. 6-13-cv-00010, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Victoria Division.
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