Schrock v. Learning Curve Int’l, Inc., No. 04 C 6927, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 29, 2010) (Kocoras, J.)

Judge Kocoras denied defendant’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and Rule 56 motion for summary judgment in this copyright and contract dispute involving photographs of Thomas & Friends characters – trains from the island of Sodor well-known to those like me with young children.

First, plaintiff’s claims sounded in copyright regardless of whether the Court used the "face of the complaint" test or the "principal and controlling issue" test both of which have been used by the Seventh Circuit. The complaint and the issues expressed in it made clear that copyrights were at the heart of the dispute. The Complaint alleged that plaintiff authored photographs and copyrighted them, entered an agreement with defendants, and that defendant’s use of the photographs violated the agreement.

Second, the Court denied summary judgment as to the contract claim because there was a question of material fact as to whether a binding agreement was formed between the parties and the Court held that in the event the trier of fact determined a valid contract exists, the agreement was not barred by the statute of frauds because plaintiff had fully performed his obligations pursuant to the agreement.