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You Can't Claw Back an Expired Claim

Logo Designer's Claim Against School District Slashed by Statute of Limitations

On December 10, 2023, John Price (“Price”), a resident of Moody, Texas, filed a lawsuit against Moody Independent School District (the “District”), Bearcat Athletic Booster Club (“BABC”), and Andrew Miller (“Miller”). The Moody Independent School District oversees public education in Moody, Texas, with Miller as superintendent, while the BABC, linked to the district, focuses on sports programs.

The lawsuit centers on allegations of copyright infringement under chapters 1 and 12 of 17 U.S.C., marking a significant confrontation between an individual creator and an educational institution.

Stylized logo of an animal claw tearing at the upper corner of the letter M

Price argues that in 2009, he created an artistic graphic design to print on shorts for his two sons. His artistic design was not registered with the United States Copyright Office until August 2022 when he obtained certification and named the work as “MCLAW DESIGN.” (Amended Complaint pg. 3, 6). Price claims that the district has been using MCLAW DESIGN without his consent since 2011 when he discovered that his work was printed on hoodies during a football game. He notified the District and requested the removal of MCLAW DESIGN from their products. Id. at 4. Although the District ceased printing MCLAW DESIGN on their products, Price alleges that they resumed “counterfeiting” his work without his consent. Id. Price argues that since 2014, the District has continuously copied, distributed, and counterfeited products with his artistic design without his consent, including reproducing it on their social media pages and websites, despite repeated warnings not to do so. Id. Consequently, after 12 years, Price decided to file a lawsuit.

Price also explains in his complaint the reason for the delay in filing a claim against the District. He asserts that because his two sons were students at the school under scholarships, he feared retaliation and did not want his children's education to suffer because of his lawsuit.

In response to Price’s allegations, the District and Miller requested that Judge Alan D. Albright dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. (Motion to Dismiss pg. 4). The defendants' attorneys argue that Price’s copyright claims are time-barred by the statute of limitations, as he should have filed the lawsuit no more than three years after becoming aware of the infringement, as mandated by 17 U.S.C. § 507(b). Filing his case 12 years later falls outside the legal timeframe, rendering Price’s allegations legally inadmissible.

Regarding the other allegations, the defendants' attorneys argue that Price failed to provide factual basis for his claims in his complaint. They contend that Price did not adequately explain how the infringements occurred or provide evidence in support of his claims. For instance, regarding the individual liability attributed to Miller and BABC, the attorneys argue that the allegations [were] unsupported by a single fact,” and that the “… claims against Mr. Miller and Mrs. Cox amount to no more than a ‘threadbare’ recitation.” (Motion to Dismiss pg. 14). The attorneys employ similar arguments to counter all other charges and thus request that the court dismiss the case with prejudice.

Judge Derek T. Gilliland eventually granted the motion to dismiss in favor of the District. The court also denied a motion to stay filed by Price. In its order, the court emphasizes that it is always expected that during the proceedings parties will consider “engaging in settlement discussions […] while at the same time preparing the case for trial.” (Order No.17). Despite the denial, the court still granted a partial extension for certain filing deadlines.