Monday, September 28, 2009

Fourth DCA Denies Writ of Prohibition - Case Did Not Involve Federal Copyright Laws

In Pro-Med Clinical Systems, L.L.C. v. Utopia Provider Systems, Inc. (4D09-2698), the Fourth District denied the petition for writ of prohibition concluding the action was not governed exclusively by federal copyright laws.

The plaintiff filed two suits, one in state court and one in federal court, relating to "a product called ED Maximus, a system of templates, or charts, for use by emergency room physicians...The federal district court then issued an order granting Pro-Med summary judgment and holding that the ED Maximus system was not subject to federal copyright protection. Utopia Provider Sys., Inc. v. Pro-Med Clinical Sys., L.L.C., No. 07-60654-CIV., 2009 WL 248376 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 2, 2009)...In so holding, the court reasoned that the ED Maximus system of templates for recording patient information was not an original work of authorship or a compilation of data to which federal copyright protection extends."

The court noted that "A writ of prohibition is a proper remedy to prevent a trial court from asserting subject-matter jurisdiction over matters within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts...Am. Maritime Officers Union v. Merriken, 981 So. 2d 544, 547 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) (granting petition for writ of prohibition relating to claim, which was preempted by federal law)."

It is well-settled that the 'Federal Copyright Act preempts state causes of actions that are equivalent to copyright infringement claims.'...All of the cases relied on by Pro-Med, however, involved preemption of state law claims involving works that fell within the scope and subject matter of the Copyright Act. As explained in Briarpatch, a case relied on heavily by Pro-Med, '[t]he Copyright Act exclusively governs a claim when: (1) the particular work to which the claim is being applied falls within the typ e of works protected by the Copyright Act . . . and (2) the claim seeks to vindicate legal or equitable rights that are equivalent to one of the bundle of exclusive rights already protected by copyright law'.”

Pro-Med seems to contend that Utopia’s claim falls within the scope of the Copyright Act and that the materials are copyrightable. Of course, Pro-Med asserted a contrary position in the federal litigation where it successfully argued that the ED Maximus materials were not copyrightable.

The federal district court has already determined that federal copyright protection does extend to the materials at issue and that the claims in question are properly brought in state court. Utopia’s claim for damages from the breach of the licensing agreement does not apply to a work that falls within the subject matter of the Copyright Act. The trial court in this case is not poised to adjudicate a claim of copyright infringement.


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