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Copyright Infringement Can Get on One's Nerves

Professor claims that another professor infringed her neurology teaching materials

On January 31, 2022, Dr. Tamara Eichelberger ("Eichelberger") filed suit against Dr. Mary Hudson-McKinney ("Hudson-McKinney") and Western University of Health Sciences ("Western") for copyright infringement and for reverse passing off under the Lanham Act.

Eichelberger's Complaint centers on a set of teaching materials (the "Work") that Eichelberger has used (and continues to use) in teaching classes on clinical neuroscience at schools throughout Southern California, including Western. The Complaint explains that the Work consists of "a unique arrangement of video slides, outlines and graphics" that Eichelberger has distilled from a top neurology textbook, with permission, over the course of many years.

The Complaint alleges that Hudson-McKinney recruited Eichelberger to teach a course in clinical neuroscience at Western and then proceeded, in the next two years, to copy all of the materials from the Work verbatim. Hudson-McKinney then allegedly put her own name on the Work and displayed the work in her own classes, made copies for her own use, and distributed copies to her classes.

Eichelberger claims that Hudson-McKinney's actions constitute copyright infringement (a copyright registration for the work is included as an exhibit attached to the Complaint) and also reverse passing off under the Lanham Act (since the uses have caused confusion among students as to the source of the materials). The Complaint asserts that Western is vicariously liable for the infringement, since it presumably had the ability to control Hudson-McKinney, gained profits from the infringement, provided the forum for the infringement, and had reason to know about the infringement.

In the Complaint, Eichelberger demands a jury trial and seeks an injunction to prevent Hudson-McKinney and Western from continuing the infringement and reverse passing off. Eichelberger also seeks actual damages and profits derived from the infringement and attorneys' fees and costs. The defendants have not yet filed an answer to the Complaint, but we will provide updates going forward.