State law doesn’t trump federal copyright laws

| Aug 20, 2015 | Trade Secrets

California intellectual property owners may be interested to learn that most courts agree that federal copyright laws supersede many state law claims. In a 2015 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit held that a software marketing company that sought damages on the grounds that another firm stole its trade secrets and violated the Texas Theft Liability Act was not entitled to exemption from federal court jurisdiction.

According to legal analysts, the defendant company’s attempt to move its case to federal court was valid. Although the plaintiff tried to keep the matter at the state level, the facts that the claims fell under the umbrella of copyright law and the that the action sought to safeguard similar rights to those outlined in the federal Copyright Act meant that complete federal court preemption applied.

This case was also notable because the appellate court said that the violations alleged by the plaintiff, such as copping, conversion and theft of private software information, were actually protected by the Copyright Act’s Section 106. These actions were judged to be the same as legally-acceptable distribution and reproduction, regardless of the fact that some of the software’s facets weren’t exclusively protected by the federal law.

Copyright laws can be somewhat convoluted, and the existence of potentially contradictory laws at the state and federal levels mean that cases might take unexpected turns once they move to different courts. Companies that want to safeguard their intellectual property may find that their choice of legal venues and the particular claims they seek damages for have significant bearing on whether or not their legal actions are successful. Considering the expenses often associated with pursuing intellectual property litigation, it may be wise to consult with an attorney in order to determine how and where to proceed.