Porter v. Team One Lacrosse LLC, No. 15 C 523, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. May 15, 2015) (Lee, J.).
Judge Lee denied defendants (collectively “Team One”) Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s copyright infringement claims as barred by the three year statute of limitations, 17 U.S.C. § 507(b). Plaintiff and Team One entered an oral agreement pursuant to which plaintiff would become Team One’s employee and coach several of their lacrosse teams. They also offered to compensate plaintiff independently for designing a logo for Team One and its lacrosse teams. Team One ultimately chose one of plaintiff’s logo and promised to pay plaintiff for his design when Team One had sufficient funds to do so. Plaintiff received several raises over time, as well as promises to later compensate plaintiff for his logo.
As an initial matter, the Court noted that dismissing complaints based upon a statute of limitations affirmative defense is “typically improper.” To warrant dismissal, a complaint must “plainly reveal” that the action is untimely pursuant to the relevant statute of limitations. In the case of copyrights, there is a new violation and, thus, a new claim that restarts the statute of limitations. In plaintiff’s complaint, he alleges that Team One committed acts of infringement in 2014 and 2015, well within the three year limitations period.
Team One counters that plaintiff is actually disputing copyright ownership, not infringement, and that, therefore, the statute should run from at least January 2012, when Team One’s merger occurred. But the Court was required to view the allegations in plaintiff’s favor. Because the complaint alleges copyright infringement, a dismissal based upon the statute of limitations would be improper at the Rule 12 stage.