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Cheney Brothers v. Doris Silk Corp.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Cheney Brothers manufactured seasonal silks. Doris Silk Corp., another silk company, began selling silks that were a replica to the ones Cheney Brothers were selling. Cheney Brothers brought suit seeking an injunction against Doris Silk Corp. from selling the replica. The trial court found for Doris Silk Corp.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A person’s property interest is limited to the physical items, which other individuals are free to replicate, unless common law or statute indicates otherwise.

    Facts.

    Cheney Brothers, Plaintiff, manufactured seasonal silks in manystyles, resulting in the successful sale of some more than others. Generally, commercially successful styles did not endure more than a period of eight or nine months on the market. Further, copyright and patent laws made it unfeasible for Plaintiff to register the style to protect it. Doris Silk Corp., Defendant,replicated one of Plaintiff’s more successful prints to sell it for less than Plaintiff’ssilks. Plaintifftried to prevent Doris Silk Corp. from selling the silks with Plaintiff’sstyle, causing a decrease in sales. The trial court found for Defendant, and Plaintiff appealed

    Issue.

    Whether a fabric design is protected from replication, absent any copyright law expressly indicating otherwise.

    Held.

    No, a fabric design is not protected from replication, absent any copyright law expressly indicating otherwise.

    Discussion.

    Pursuant to International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215 (1918), thecourt found that there is not a broad patent or copyright common law provision to enjoin defendants from using their designs. Further, for such a ruling would conflict Congress’ established copyright regulations. Here, Plaintiff has a protected property interest in the actual silks that it creates, not in the style of the silks. Furthermore, the patterns are free to be replicated and sold. The relief that Plaintiffstried to obtain would createa monopoly over those patterns in the market, contrary to Congress’s desire. Therefore, the trial court’s order is affirmed.


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