U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Gregg Costa
NEW ORLEANS — A Hammond hospital won't have to pay the paltry amount in statutory damages or legal fees a federal court ordered more than a year ago for infringing on a credentialing company's copyright, an appeals court panel recently ruled.
In its 11-page decision issued Jan. 9, a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel ruled that statutory damage awards are not applicable when copyright is infringed upon one way before copyright is registered and another after it is registered.
"We see no textual, precedential, or logical reason why infringements occurring after registration are more worthy of punishment because they are 'different in kind' from those occurring earlier," the decision said.
Appeals court Judge Gregg Costa wrote the decision in which Chief Judge Priscilla R. Owen and Judge Catharina Haynes concurred.
Southern Credentialing filed its intellectual property lawsuit in December 2015, alleging that defendants used its healthcare credentialing forms without authorization or license and did so for about three years, despite knowing the forms were protected by copyright.
In October 2018, a U.S. District Court judge in Louisiana's Eastern District found that Southern Credentialing Support Services was entitled to only $5,000 in statutory damages, reasonable attorneys' fees and costs and a permanent injunction. The defendants' infringement had not been willful and Southern Credentialing failed to show it suffered actual damages, according to the district court's ruling.
All the parties appealed. The defendants argued that federal law bars awarding statutory damages and attorney's fees because they began their infringement before Southern Credentialing registered its copyrights.
The defendants also argued that Southern Credentialing's forms weren't very original and that the defendants had not copied those forms.
Southern Credentialing argued that the defendants' infringement had been willful, which matters only if statutory damages are applicable.
That statutory damages are not available "does not mean there is nothing to deter post-registration infringements," the appeals court decision said.
"Actual damages are available when a plaintiff can prove them," the decision continued. "Although Southern Credentialing was unable to do so, it obtained another remedy that protects against future infringement: an injunction."