ADAIRSVILLE, GA - It turns out that only God can make a tree, and he also holds the copyright on the wood's grain pattern. As a result, laminate flooring distributor Home Legend won a precedent-setting copyright case brought against it by competitor Mannington Mills, among the largest U.S. flooring firms.
Mannington said Home Legend had copied its approach to a maple floor pattern; Home Legend contended it's pattern arose from the natural maple grain pattern.
In the court's opinion, Home Legend’s Distressed Maple Mendocino line of flooring did not infringe on a copyright Mannington registered for its Time Crafted Maple product line. The decision was rendered by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (Case No. 4:12-CV-0237-HLM) earlier this month.
With the ruling, the federal judge ended Mannington Mills' use of copyright to restrict competition in the manufacture and sale of flooring products based on designs originating with patterns derived from nature - the premise of the case brought by Mannington.
“The outcome of this case establishes a new model for determining copyrightable subject matter,” said W. Thad Adams, III Home Legend's lawyer in the case. “It’s a huge victory for Home Legend."
The Court entered summary judgment for Adairsville, GA-based Home Legend and dismissed Mannington’s infringement claim, ruling that designs copying elements in nature are not eligible for copyright protection.
“The protection granted to a copyrightable work extends only to the particular expression of an idea and never to the idea itself…” noted the Honorable Harold L. Murphy, United States District Court Judge, in rejecting Mannington’s copyright claim. “The result is that copyright assures the authors the right to their original express, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by the work."
The judge said that Mannington tried to reproduce the wood grain, which occurs naturally, and so could not seek copyright protection for it.