Biosafe-One, Inc. v. Hawks, — F.Supp.2d —-, 2007 WL 4212411 (S.D.N.Y. November 29, 2007)
Back in 2005, industrial-strength septic system cleaning products company Bio-Safe One, Inc., needed a “jumbo mortgage,” so its president, one Jorgensen, did a web search for brokers and located Messrs. Hawks and Skierkowski, who helped Bio-Safe One with its mortgage needs. Although that transaction was over in June 2005, Jorgensen believed that Hawks and Skierkowski used information he had provided them during the mortgage transaction to start up a competing septic business.
Jorgensen and Bio-Safe One filed a lawsuit against Hawks and Skierkowski in New York federal court alleging, among other things, copyright infringement. They claimed that the competing enterprise illegally copied elements Bio-Safe One’s website.
The plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to prevent Hawks and Skierkowski from continuing what they believed to be copyright infringement. The court denied the motion for preliminary injunction.
It held that although the plaintiffs had established ownership of the copyright in the Bio-Safe One website by presenting a registration certificate for it, they failed to show that the defendants had engaged in illegal copying of any original elements of the site.
Applying the “ordinary observer test,” the court held that a side-by-side comparison simply would not prompt a person to regard the aesthetic appeal of the websites as the same. Rather, it was difficult to detect any similarities. The arrangement, photographs, and graphics on the websites were “decidedly dissimilar.” And the textual elements that were similar on the websites, including minor phrasing and terminology, were so far spaced throughout that they were not noticeable.
Accordingly, the court held that the plaintiffs would not likely succeed on their claim of copyright infringement.