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Inhale, Inc. v. Starbuzz Tobacco, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

January 9, 2014

INHALE, INC., a California Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
STARBUZZ TOBACCO, INC., a California Corporation; Wael Salim Elhalawani, an individual residing in California, Defendants-Appellees.

Argued and Submitted Nov. 4, 2013.

Louis F. Teran, SLC Law Group, Pasadena, CA, argued the cause and filed the briefs for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Page 447

Natu J. Patel, The Patel Law Firm, P.C., Irvine, CA, argued the cause and filed the brief for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Otis D. Wright, II, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:11-cv-03838-ODW-FFM.

Before: DIARMUID F. O'SCANNLAIN, SUSAN P. GRABER, and CARLOS T. BEA, Circuit Judges.

Opinion bye Judge O'Scannlain; Concurrence by Judge Bea.

OPINION

O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge:

We must decide whether the shape of a hookah water container [1] is entitled to copyright protection.

I

Inhale, Inc. claims copyright protection in the shape of a hookah water container that it first published on August 29, 2008 and registered with the United States Copyright Office on April 21, 2011. At both the time of publication and the time of registration, the container included skull-and-crossbones images on the outside.

Less than a month after registration, Inhale sued Starbuzz Tobacco, Inc. and Wael Salim Elhalawani (collectively, " Starbuzz" ) for copyright infringement. Inhale claimed that Starbuzz sold hookah water containers that were identical in shape to Inhale's container. The allegedly infringing containers did not contain skull-and-crossbones images. After determining that the shape of the water container is not copyrightable, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Starbuzz.

II

Because " ownership of a valid copyright" is an element of copyright infringement, Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co.,499 U.S. 340, 361, 111 S.Ct. 1282, 113 L.Ed.2d 358 (1991), summary judgment was appropriate if the ...


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