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Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

March 3, 2000, Argued ; October 3, 2000, Decided

No. 99-1617

Opinion

 [*352]  MICHAEL, Senior District Judge:

Frederick E. Bouchat (the "plaintiff-appellee") filed this action, seeking $ 10,000,000 in damages, in the United States District Court for the District [**2]  of Maryland, alleging that the Baltimore Ravens, Inc. and National Football League Properties, Inc. (the "defendants-appellants") had infringed his copyright rights in three different drawings consisting entirely of his original work, including a shield drawing created by Bouchat in late 1995 when developing his "shield logo" for the new National Football League team-- the Baltimore Ravens. Bouchat holds a copyright on his shield drawing and claims that the defendants' designers copied protected elements of that drawing. The defendants claim that they developed the Baltimore Ravens' official shield logo independently. The case was tried before a jury over nearly five weeks in October and November 1998. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Bouchat. The defendants filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial as to the third drawing, contending-among other things -- that the plaintiff failed to prove that the defendants had access to Bouchat's drawing. The district court, by order, denied defendants' motion in February of 1999. In April 1999, however, the District Court certified several questions to this court which [**3]  form the basis of this interlocutory appeal. Based upon the reasoning below, this court affirms the decision of the district court.

Frederick Bouchat is an amateur artist. He has a ninth grade education, and now works as a front entrance security guard at the State of Maryland Office building on St. Paul Street in Baltimore. Bouchat often showed his artwork to people passing through the building's main entrance.

As news of an NFL team for Baltimore spread in 1995, Bouchat created drawings and designs for the team based on his favorite possible team name -- the Ravens. Bouchat created a helmet design and affixed his creation to a miniature football helmet. Bouchat gave the design and helmet to Eugene Conti, a state official who worked in the St. Paul Street office building. Conti kept the helmet displayed in  [*353]  his office. Bouchat showed other team drawings to employees of the building, and gave two drawings away as holiday gifts in December of 1995.

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241 F.3d 350 *; 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 34656 **

FREDERICK E. BOUCHAT, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. BALTIMORE RAVENS, INCORPORATED; NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE PROPERTIES, INCORPORATED, Defendants-Appellants.

Subsequent History:  [**1]  As Amended January 17, 2001. Certiorari Denied May 21, 2001, Reported at: 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 3863.

Writ of certiorari denied Baltimore Ravens, Inc. v. Bouchat, 532 U.S. 1038, 149 L. Ed. 2d 1003, 121 S. Ct. 2000, 2001 U.S. LEXIS 3863 (2001)

Partial summary judgment granted by, in part Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens, Inc., 215 F. Supp. 2d 611, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6966 (D. Md., 2002)

Prior History: Original Opinion Previously Reported at: 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 24792.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. Marvin J. Garbis, District Judge. (CA-97-1470-MJG).

Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens, Inc., 228 F.3d 489, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 24792 (4th Cir. Md., 2000)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

drawing, shield, Ravens, fax, copying, logo, similarity, infringement, infer, district court, forwarded, strikingly similar, alleged infringer, circumstantial evidence, designers, defendants', copyright infringement, reasonable possibility, speculation, team, substantially similar, hypothetical, witnesses, intermediary, chain, interlocutory appeal, direct evidence, jury's verdict, matter of law, office space

Copyright Law, Copyright Infringement Actions, Civil Infringement Actions, Burdens of Proof, General Overview, Elements, Copying by Defendants, Ownership, Copying by Defendants, Substantial Similarity, Access, Civil Procedure, Trials, Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Inferences, Deposit & Registration Requirements, Registration, Application Requirements, Defenses, Jurisdiction, Scope of Copyright Protection, Formalities, Registration Requirement, Error & Misstatement Correction, Restoration From Public Domain, Jury Instructions, Judicial Review, Criminal Law & Procedure, Juries & Jurors, Jury Questions to the Court, Clarification of Instructions, Jurors, Misconduct, Particular Instructions, Allen Charges