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Supreme Court of the United States
November 8, 2021, Argued; February 24, 2022, Decided
Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.
] A valid copyright registration provides a copyright holder with important and sometimes necessary legal advantages. It is, for example, a prerequisite for bringing a “civil action for infringement” of the copyrighted work. 17 U. S. C. §411(a). Additionally, a plaintiff in an infringement action normally cannot obtain an award of statutory damages or attorney’s fees for infringement that occurred prior to registration. §412.
] To obtain registration, the author of a work must submit to the Register of Copyrights a copy of the work and an application. §§408, 409. The application must provide information [*591] about the work. §409. Some of this information is purely factual, but some of it incorporates legal conclusions. Ibid. If the Register determines that the work is copyrightable and meets other statutory requirements, she will issue a certificate of registration. §410(a). The information on this certificate reflects the information that the copyright holder provided on the application. Ibid.
Naturally, ] the information provided on the application for registration should be accurate. Nevertheless, the Copyright Act provides a safe harbor. It says that a certificate of [**7] registration is valid
“regardless of whether the certificate contains any inaccurate information, unless—
“(A) the inaccurate information was included on the application for copyright registration with knowledge that it was inaccurate; and
“(B) the inaccuracy of the information, if known, would have caused the Register of Copyrights to refuse registration.” §411(b)(1) (emphasis added).
The important point for our purposes is that a certificate of registration is valid even though it contains inaccurate information, as long as the copyright holder lacked “knowledge that it was inaccurate.” §411(b)(1)(A).
The question before us concerns the scope of the phrase “with knowledge that it was inaccurate.” The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit believed that a copyright holder cannot benefit from the safe harbor and save its copyright registration from invalidation if its lack of knowledge stems from a failure to understand the law rather than a failure to understand the facts. In our view, however, §411(b) does not distinguish between a mistake of law and a mistake of fact. Lack of knowledge of either fact or law can excuse an inaccuracy in a copyright registration. We therefore vacate the Court of Appeals’ contrary holding. [**8]
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
211 L. Ed. 2d 586 *; 2022 U.S. LEXIS 1226 **; __ S.Ct. __; 2022 WL 547681
UNICOLORS, INC., PETITIONER v. H&M HENNES & MAURITZ, L. P.
Notice: The pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [**1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P., 959 F.3d 1194, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 17097, 2020 WL 2781317 (9th Cir. Cal., May 29, 2020)
Disposition: 959 F. 3d 1194, vacated and remanded.
registration, inaccurate information, actual knowledge, infringement, inaccurate, inaccuracy, designs, invalid, questions, registration certificate, Register, single unit, Dictionary, holder, split, constructive knowledge, slip opinion, safe harbor, labeling, novel
Copyright Law, Damages, Types of Damages, Costs & Attorney Fees, Statutory Damages, Civil Infringement Actions, Jurisdiction, Registration Requirement, Deposit & Registration Requirements, Registration, Registration Certificates, Application Requirements, Error & Misstatement Correction, Evidence, Types of Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Criminal Law & Procedure, Defenses, Ignorance & Mistake of Law