Zimnicki v. General Foam Plastics Corp., No. 09 C 2132, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 24, 2010) (Grady, J.).
Judge Grady denied defendants’ motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to join a necessary party pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 19 in this copyright case involving holiday decorations including "decorative deer" designs. In an earlier-filed, ongoing litigation defendant Neo-Neon claimed that it owned the copyrights-in-suit and argued in the alternative, that the designs are generic. As an initial matter, the Court held that dismissal was not appropriate, even if Neo-Neon was a required party, because defendants did not attempt to show that Neo-Neon could not be joined.
Defendants did argue that their failure to join Neo-Neon would subject defendants to multiple or inconsistent obligations. While a theoretical interest in a litigation would not require joinder, Neo-Neon’s actual claimed interest in the copyright was more than theoretical. The Court had discretion to require joinder based upon that claim.
But the Court did not require joinder. Neo-Neon was determining its interests in a parallel proceeding in the Northern District – click here for more on that case. And while the ownership dispute generally put defendants in risk of multiple obligations, circumstances mitigated that concern. In addition to claiming ownership, Neo-Neon claimed the copyrights were generic. And there was no indication that Neo-Neon intended to use any interest it acquired to enforce the copyrights-in-suit.