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Home Legend, LLC v. Mannington Mills, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

April 29, 2015

HOME LEGEND, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee-Counter Defendant,
v.
MANNINGTON MILLS, INC., Defendant-Appellant-Counter Claimant, POWER DEKOR GROUP CO. LTD., Consol. Defendant-Appellee

Page 1405

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. D.C. Docket No. 4:12-cv-00237-HLM.

REVERSED and REMANDED.

For Home Legend, LLC, Plaintiff - Appellee: W. Thad Adams III, Shumaker Loop & Kendrick, LLP, Charlotte, NC; Edward Hine Jr., Law Offices of Edward Hine, Jr., PC, Rome, GA.

For Mannington Mills, Inc., Defendant - Appellant: Sherry H. Flax, Saul Ewing, LLP, Baltimore, MD; Ansel Franklin Beacham III, Samuel L. Lucas, Brinson Askew Berry Seigler Richardson & Davis, LLP, Rome, GA; Jennifer A. DeRose, Robin Leone, Saul Ewing, LLP, Baltimore, MD.

For Power Dekor Group Co. Ltd., Defendant - Appellee: W. Thad Adams III, Shumaker Loop & Kendrick, LLP, Charlotte, NC; Edward Hine Jr., Law Offices of Edward Hine, Jr., PC, Rome, GA.

For North American Laminate Flooring Association, Inc., Amicus Curiae: Heidi K. Abegg, Webster Chamberlain & Bean, Washington, DC.

For Resilient Floor Covering Institute, Amicus Curiae: Joshua J. Kaufman, Meaghan H. Kent, Venable, LLP, Washington, DC.

Before ED CARNES, Chief Judge, JILL PRYOR and HIGGINBOTHAM,[*] Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1406

ED CARNES, Chief Judge:

I.

Mannington Mills, Inc. appeals the grant of summary judgment in favor of Home Legend, LLC, that Mannington's registered copyright in its " Glazed Maple" design is invalid.

Page 1407

A.

Because this is Mannington's appeal of the grant of summary judgment against it, we view all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Mannington, the non-moving party. See Hamilton v. Southland Christian Sch., Inc., 680 F.3d 1316, 1318 (11th Cir. 2012). In that light, the facts are these.

Mannington and Home Legend both sell (among other products) laminate wood flooring. Laminate flooring consists of three functional layers, starting from the bottom: a balancing or stabilizing layer, often made of water-resistant resin; a core board of wood fiber mixed with resin and pressed at high temperatures to form a strong and solid board; and a transparent wear-resistant overlay. Because the resulting flooring is not much to look at, laminate flooring manufacturers add a decorative layer called " dé cor paper" between the core board and the transparent overlay. This dé cor paper features a piece of two-dimensional artwork and could depict any design capable of two-dimensional representation, though in practice the dé cor paper usually appears to be a typical flooring material like wood or stone that looks better (and costs more) than unadorned laminate flooring.

The copyright at issue in this case covers Mannington's dé cor paper design called " Glazed Maple," which is a huge digital photograph depicting fifteen stained and apparently time-worn maple planks. That appearance, though, is only an appearance. In 2008, three Mannington employees created the Glazed Maple design not from aged planks but from raw wood. After initial research and brainstorming about home decor trends, they decided to create an aged and rustic look. The team did not seek out an actual aged wood floor from which to create the design but instead " envision[ed what] a floor could look like after" twenty or thirty years, including the effects " age and wear and patina" might have on the planks.

The Mannington team began with between fifty and seventy-five raw, smooth-milled white maple planks. With a selection of hand tools, they added gouges, dents, nail holes, ripples, " chatter marks," and other surface imperfections to the wood in an effort to make it look like floorboards that had been walked across for many years. Then, using rags, sponges, and dry brushes, they applied layers of stain to the planks, more darkly and heavily at the edges of the boards to create the appearance of increased wear in the boards' centers. And as the team intended, the stain pooled in some of the textured areas they had created, making darker spots on the wood. They selected and applied more than one stain color. The team chose to accentuate some of the naturally occurring marks and to de-emphasize others, and they used more stain and paint to add effects like shadowing, simulated mineral streaks, and dark spots that were not present on the raw wood.

Once they were satisfied with these prototype planks, the Mannington team experimented with various selections and arrangements of the boards to choose combinations of planks that the team thought would look good in a home. They then chose about thirty of the planks to photograph with a high-resolution digital scanner. One of the team members then made more changes to the digital images, deleting areas that were " a little heavy," retouching other areas, and altering the contrast where boards were " too dark or too light" in comparison with the group as a whole. The team printed out the resulting images, selected ...


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