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To establish infringement a plaintiff must prove ownership of a valid copyright and copying by the defendant. Because direct evidence of copying often is unavailable, copying may be inferred where the defendant had access to the copyrighted work and the accused work is substantially similar to the copyrighted work.
Plaintiffs-appellants Midway Manufacturing Co. ("Midway") and Atari, Inc. ("Atari") instituted this action against defendants-appellees North American Philips Consumer Electronics Corp. ("North American") and Park Magnavox Home Entertainment Center ("Park") for copyright infringement of and unfair competition against their audiovisual game "PAC-MAN." Atari and Midway own the exclusive United States rights in PAC-MAN under the registered copyright for the "PAC-MAN audiovisual work." Midway sells the popular coin-operated arcade version, and Atari recently began to market the home video version. As part of its Odyssey line of home video games, North American developed a game called "K. C. Munchkin" which Park sells at the retail level. Plaintiffs filed this suit alleging that K. C. Munchkin infringes their copyright in PAC-MAN in violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 106, 501 (Supp. I 1977), and that North American's conduct in marketing K. C. Munchkin constitutes unfair competition in violation of the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Ill.Rev.Stat. Ch. 1211/2, §§ 311-17 (1980), and the common law. The district court denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, and this appeal followed, 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1).
Was the infringement of Midway and Atari’s copyright established which would render a grant of preliminary injunction proper?
The court reversed, finding that the lower court's factual determinations were clearly erroneous and that its refusal to grant the injunction was an abuse of discretion. The similarities between the two games and other extrinsic evidence demonstrated that Midway and Atari were likely to succeed on their copyright claim and that they had established irreparable harm. The court directed the lower court to enter a preliminary injunction against North American and Park’s continued infringement of Midway and Atari’s copyright.