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Kitchen and Bath Concepts of Pittsburgh, LLC v. Eddy Homes, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 22, 2016

EDDY HOMES, INC., Defendant.


          Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court in this matter is a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Defendant Eddy Homes, Inc. (Docket No. 9). Having considered Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, (Docket No. 6); Defendant's motion to dismiss and supporting briefing, (Docket Nos. 9, 10); Plaintiff's response in opposition, (Docket No. 13); Defendant's reply, (Docket No. 15); the parties' supplemental briefing, (Docket Nos. 17, 18); and oral argument presented by the parties on October 28, 2016, (Docket No. 20), [1] Defendant Eddy Homes, Inc.'s motion to dismiss is GRANTED. Plaintiff's claim for copyright infringement will be dismissed with prejudice, and Plaintiff's claim for unfair competition will be dismissed without prejudice. However, the Court will decline to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim for unfair competition.

         II. Background

         This copyright infringement case arises out of Defendant's promotional activities in electronic and print media. The following facts are alleged in the First Amended Complaint, which the Court will accept as true for the sole purpose of deciding the pending motion.

         Plaintiff operates a kitchen and bath design business, and Defendant is a residential home builder. (Docket No. 6 at ¶¶ 1-2). In April 2013, Mr. and Mrs. Sterling (“the Sterlings”) hired Plaintiff and Defendant to construct their home in McMurray, Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶¶ 3-4). Defendant constructed the exterior and interior walls, and installed the plumbing and electrical systems. (Id. at ¶ 3). After Defendant completed the exterior construction, Plaintiff designed and installed, without any assistance from Defendant, all interior spaces of the home. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5). The interior spaces included the master bathroom, the basement bathroom, the basement bar, the basement fireplace, the powder room, the laundry room, the bedroom closets, the kitchen, and the mudroom. (Id. at ¶ 4). Plaintiff is the owner of the copyright in the design of the interior of the Sterlings' home. (Id. at ¶ 6).

         In October 2015, photographs of the interior of the Sterlings' home, which were published in the Kitchen and Bath Design News periodical, credited Defendant and its design coordinator, Cristinia Palamides, for the work. (Id. at ¶ 7). Plaintiff also discovered the photographs on Defendant's website and on several social media websites. (Id. at ¶ 8). In January 2016, the photographs were published in Whirl Magazine. (Id. at ¶ 10). Plaintiff was not given design credit on the websites or in the periodicals in which the photographs were published. (Id. at ¶ 9-10).

         Plaintiff registered a copyright for the design of the interior of the Sterlings' home on March 2, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 11). After the photographs were published in the March/April 2016 edition of Housetrends Magazine, Defendant received a Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh Award. (Id. at ¶ 12). Defendant has refused to remove the photographs from its website or, in the alternative, to credit Plaintiff for the design and construction of the interior designs depicted. (Id. at ¶ 13).

         Plaintiff filed this action on May 11, 2016. (Docket No 1). In its First Amended Complaint, filed on June 22, 2016, Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendant for copyright infringement and for unfair competition. (Docket No. 6 at ¶¶ 17-43). On July 1, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and supporting briefing. (Docket Nos. 9, 10). After Plaintiff filed a response, (Docket No. 13), Defendant filed a reply, (Docket No. 15). Pursuant to the Court's October 14, 2016 Order, the parties filed supplemental briefs to address the impact of Landrau v. Solis-Betancourt, 554 F.Supp.2d 102 (D.P.R. 2007). (Docket Nos. 16, 17, 18). The parties argued their positions at a hearing held on October 28, 2016. (Docket No. 20). On November 14, 2016, the Court stayed this matter pending the disposition of a settlement conference before Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan. (Docket No. 24). After the parties were unable to resolve the case, the Court lifted the stay on December 15, 2016. (Docket Nos. 28, 29). This matter is now ripe for disposition.

         III. Legal Standard

         When reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must “‘accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'” Eid v. Thompson, 740 F.3d 118, 122 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge, the plaintiff's “‘[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (2007). “Thus, ‘only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         Although the Court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true, “‘[it is] not compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Instead, the plaintiff must plead facts which permit the court to make a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57; Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Consistent with these principles, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has prescribed a three-step analysis for purposes of determining whether a claim is plausible. First, the court should “outline the elements a plaintiff must plead to a state a claim for relief.” Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012). Second, the court should “peel away” legal conclusions that are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id.; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (“While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.”). Third, the court should assume the veracity of all well-pled factual allegations and then “‘determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Bistrian, 696 F.3d at 365 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). This third step of the analysis is “‘a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         IV. ...

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