Tile sued S&W Dealz in April for trademark infringement. After S&W Dealz failed to answer the complaint or to oppose Tile’s motion for entry of default, Judge Burroughs granted Tile’s motion. As a result of the default, the willfulness allegations of the complaint are deemed to be true, so S&W Dealz is deemed to have willfully infringed. Tile sought $500,000 in willfulness damages for each of the two trademarks in suit, primarily to serve as a deterrent to future infringer (Tile apparently acknowledged the low likelihood of recovering any money from S&W Dealz). Judge Burroughs acknowledged that Tile could opt for statutory damages, but the statutory damages provision was intended to provide compensation to the plaintiff and serve as a deterrent against future willful infringement, but noted that the statutory damage provision was not intended to provide plaintiff with a windfall. She awarded $50,000 per mark, for a total of $100,000. She also granted Tile’s request for a permanent injunction.
Judge Stearns granted photographer John Curtis Rice default judgment, finding that SAJ wrongfully reproduced Rice’s copyrighted photograph of New York City taken by drone from above in SAJ’s “DroneLife” drone news website. The default came after SAJ’s CEO was informed that he (a non-lawyer) could not file an answer on SAJ’s behalf and SAJ could not afford to pay for a defense. Judge Stearns refused, however, to go along with Rice’s demand for regarding damages and fees. Rice had sought $3000 in actual damages for copyright infringement, $10,000 in statutory damages for removal of copyright management information, and $3,825 in fees and $475 in costs, asserting that SAJ’s “infringement and refusal to appear and respond” were “objectively unreasonable.” Judge Stearns, noting that an intern at SAJ had utilized the image without the corporation’s knowledge and that SAJ immediately took down the photograph upon learning of its use, determined that the violations were “unintentional, very limited, and the source of no discernable profit to SAJ.” He awarded only the minimum $750 in statutory damages.
As I have previously noted, the attorney representing Rice has achieved quite a bit of notoriety in demanding vastly unreasonable sums having no ties to the actual infringement or actual likely measure of damages. As Judge Furman of Liebowitz’s home court in the Southern District of New York, recently noted, “[i]n his relatively short career litigating in this District, Richard Liebowitz has earned the dubious distinction of being a regular target of sanctions-related motions and orders. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that there is a growing body of law in this District devoted to the question of whether and when to impose sanctions on Mr. Liebowitz alone.” Perhaps this decision is an indication that courts outside of New York’s Southern District are taking note of Mr. Liebowitz’s predatory practices.