throbber
No.
`In the Supreme Court of the United States
`
`ULTRAFLO CORPORATION,
`
`v.
`
`Petitioner,
`
`PELICAN TANK PARTS, INCORPORATED;
`THOMAS JOSEPH MUELLER;
`PELICAN WORLDWIDE, INCORPORATED,
`
`Respondents.
`
`On Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to
`the United States Court of Appeals
`for the Fifth Circuit
`
`PETITION FOR A WRIT OF CERTIORARI
`
`TRAVIS SCOTT CRABTREE
`JIM MOSELEY
`Gray Reed &
`McGraw, LLP
`1300 Post Oak Blvd.,
`Suite 2000
`Houston, TX 77056
`(713) 986-7000
`
`PAUL W. HUGHES
`Counsel of Record
`MICHAEL B. KIMBERLY
`DENNIS R. MAHONEY
`Mayer Brown LLP
`1999 K Street, NW
`Washington, DC 20006
`(202) 263-3000
`phughes@mayerbrown.com
`
`Counsel for Petitioner
`
`

`

`i
`QUESTION PRESENTED
`Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act renders “ide-
`as” outside the subject matter of copyright; it pro-
`vides that “[i]n no case does copyright protection for
`an original work of authorship extend to any idea.”
`17 U.S.C. § 102(b).
`Section 301(a) provides that the Copyright Act
`“exclusively” governs all rights relating to “works of
`authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of
`expression and come within the subject matter of
`copyright as specified by sections 102 and 103.” 17
`U.S.C. § 301(a).
`The circuits are expressly divided as to whether
`Section 301(a) preempts state-law claims relating to
`ideas expressed in tangible media. Here, the Fifth
`Circuit held that, despite the fact that an idea is not
`within the subject matter of copyright, Section 301(a)
`nonetheless preempts petitioner’s Texas-law claim
`for unfair competition by means of misappropriation.
`The question presented is:
`state-law
`Whether Section 301(a) preempts
`claims relating to ideas expressed in tangible media.
`
`

`

`ii
`TABLE OF CONTENTS
`Question Presented ..................................................... i
`Table of Authorities................................................... iii
`Opinions Below............................................................1
`Jurisdiction..................................................................1
`Statutory Provisions Involved ....................................1
`Statement ....................................................................2
`A. Legal Background.............................................3
`B. Factual Background. ........................................5
`C. Proceedings Below. ...........................................5
`Reasons for Granting the Petition..............................7
`A. The Circuits Are Expressly Divided. ...............7
`B. The Question Presented Is Important. ..........10
`C. The Decision Below Is Wrong. .......................13
`Conclusion .................................................................18
`Appendix A – Fifth Circuit decision
`(January 11, 2017)...........................1a
`Appendix B – District court decision
`(January 22, 2015).........................14a
`Appendix C – District court decision
`(September 7, 2012).......................25a
`Appendix D – District court decision
`(October 18, 2011)..........................35a
`
`

`

`iii
`
`TABLE OF AUTHORITIES
`
`Page(s)
`
`Cases
`A Slice of Pie Prods., LLC v.
`Wayans Bros. Entm’t,
`392 F. Supp. 2d 297 (D. Conn. 2005)...................11
`Act II Jewelry, LLC v. Wooten,
`2016 WL 3671451 (N.D. Ill. 2016).......................11
`Altria Grp., Inc. v. Good,
`555 U.S. 70 (2008)................................................17
`Baker v. Selden,
`101 U.S. 99 (1879)................................................16
`Bates v. Dow Agrosciences LLC,
`544 U.S. 431 (2005)..............................................17
`Beardmore v. Jacobsen,
`131 F. Supp. 3d 656 (S.D. Tex. 2015) ..................11
`BellSouth Advert. & Publ’g Corp. v.
`Donnelley Info. Publ’g, Inc.,
`999 F.2d 1436 (11th Cir. 1993)............................15
`United States ex rel. Berge v. Board of
`Trustees of the Univ. of Alabama,
`104 F.3d 1453 (4th Cir. 1997)..........................8, 14
`Blue Nile, Inc. v. Ice.com, Inc.,
`478 F. Supp. 2d 1240 (W.D. Wash. 2007)......10, 11
`Bond v. United States,
`134 S. Ct. 2077 (2014)..........................................13
`Boyle v. Stephens Inc.,
`1998 WL 690816 (S.D.N.Y. 1998)........................11
`BP Auto., L.P. v. RML Waxahachie Dodge, L.L.C.,
`448 S.W.3d 562 (Tex. App. 2014).....................5, 12
`Coll. of Charleston Found. v. Ham,
`585 F. Supp. 2d 737 (D.S.C. 2008).......................11
`
`

`

`iv
`
`TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—continued
`
`Page(s)
`
`Counts v. Meriwether,
`2015 WL 12656945 (C.D. Cal. 2015) .....................8
`Doody v. Penguin Grp. (USA) Inc.,
`673 F. Supp. 2d 1144 (D. Haw. 2009)..................11
`Dresser-Rand Co. v. Virtual Automation Inc.,
`361 F.3d 831 (5th Cir. 2004)................................12
`Dunlap v. G&L Holding Grp., Inc.,
`381 F.3d 1285 (11th Cir. 2004).............. 7, 8, 13, 17
`Endemol Entm’t B.V. v.
`Twentieth Television Inc.,
`1998 WL 785300 (C.D. Cal. 1998) .......................12
`Entity Prod. v. Vargo,
`2007 WL 3129861 (N.D. Ohio 2007)....................11
`Feist Publ’ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co.,
`499 U.S. 340 (1991)..............................................15
`First Am. Bankcard, Inc. v.
`Smart Bus. Tech., Inc.,
`2016 WL 5869787 (E.D. La. 2016).......................11
`Fla. Dep’t of Revenue v. Piccadilly Cafeterias, Inc.,
`554 U.S. 33 (2008)................................................15
`Forest Park Pictures v. Universal Television
`Network, Inc.,
`683 F.3d 424 (2d Cir. 2012) ...............................4, 9
`Found. for Lost Boys v. Alcon Entm’t, LLC,
`2016 WL 4394486 (N.D. Ga. 2016)..................7, 12
`Gary Friedrich Enters., LLC v.
`Marvel Enters., Inc.,
`713 F. Supp. 2d 215 (S.D.N.Y. 2010)...................11
`
`

`

`v
`
`TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—continued
`
`Page(s)
`
`Gates Rubber Co. v. Bando Chem. Indus., Ltd.,
`9 F.3d 823 (10th Cir. 1993)..................................16
`Giordano v. Claudio,
`714 F. Supp. 2d 508 (E.D. Pa. 2010) ...............8, 11
`Ground Zero Museum Workshop v. Wilson,
`813 F. Supp. 2d 678 (D. Md. 2011)......................11
`Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters.,
`471 U.S. 539 (1985)................................................3
`Idema v. Dreamworks,
`162 F. Supp. 2d 1129 (C.D. Cal. 2001) ..........10, 11
`International News Service v. Associated Press,
`248 U.S. 215 (1918)................................................4
`Jaggon v. Rebel Rock Entm’t, Inc.,
`2010 WL 3468101 (S.D. Fla. 2010)......................12
`Kantemirov v. Goldine,
`2005 WL 1593533 (N.D. Cal. 2005)...............10, 11
`Katz Dochrermann & Epstein, Inc. v.
`Home Box Office,
`1999 WL 179603 (S.D.N.Y. 1999)........................11
`Kern River Gas Transmission Co. v.
`Coastal Corp.,
`899 F.2d 1458 (5th Cir. 1990)..............................16
`Kindergartners Count, Inc. v. Demoulin,
`171 F. Supp. 2d 1183 (D. Kan. 2001) ..................12
`M–I LLC v. Stelly,
`733 F. Supp. 2d 759 (S.D. Tex. 2010) ..................11
`Malik v. Lynk, Inc.,
`1999 WL 760217 (D. Kan. 1999) .........................12
`
`

`

`vi
`
`TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—continued
`
`Page(s)
`
`Media.net Advert. FZ-LLC v. Netseer, Inc.,
`2016 WL 4036092 (N.D. Cal. 2016)...............10, 11
`Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr,
`518 U.S. 470 (1996)..............................................17
`Meridian Project Sys., Inc. v. Hardin Constr. Co.,
`2006 WL 1062070 (E.D. Cal. 2006) .................8, 11
`Micro Data Base Sys., Inc. v. Nellcor Puritan-
`Bennett, Inc.,
`20 F. Supp. 2d 1258 (N.D. Ind. 1998)..................11
`Montz v. Pilgrim Films & Television, Inc.,
`649 F.3d 975 (9th Cir. 2011)..................................9
`Nat’l Basketball Ass’n v. Motorola, Inc.,
`105 F.3d 841 (2d Cir. 1997) ...................................9
`Orchestratehr, Inc. v. Trombetta,
`2016 WL 4563348 (N.D. Tex. 2016) ....................12
`Pinnacle Pizza Co. v. Little Caesar Enters., Inc.,
`395 F. Supp. 2d 891 (D.S.D. 2005) ......................11
`Priority Payment Sys., LLC v. Signapay, Ltd.,
`161 F. Supp. 3d 1285 (N.D. Ga. 2015)...........10, 12
`Puerto Rico v. Franklin Cal. Tax-Free Tr.,
`136 S. Ct. 1938 (2016)..........................................13
`Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp.,
`331 U.S. 218 (1947)..............................................17
`Schwimmer v. Presidio Indus. LLC,
`2011 WL 13089398 (N.D. Tex. 2011) ..................12
`SCQuARE Int’l, Ltd. v. BBDO Atlanta, Inc.,
`455 F. Supp. 2d 1347 (N.D. Ga. 2006).................12
`Sefton v. Jew,
`201 F. Supp. 2d 730 (W.D. Tex. 2001).................12
`
`

`

`vii
`
`TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—continued
`
`Page(s)
`
`Spear Mktg., Inc. v. BancorpSouth Bank,
`791 F.3d 586 (5th Cir. 2015).................... 6, 7, 9, 14
`Stromback v. New Line Cinema,
`384 F.3d 283 (6th Cir. 2004)..................................9
`Stromback v. New Line Cinema,
`984 F.3d 283 (6th Cir. 2004)................................10
`Suncoast Post-Tension, Ltd. v. Scoppa,
`2014 WL 12596471 (S.D. Tex. 2014) ...................11
`Target Strike, Inc. v. Marston & Marston, Inc.,
`2010 WL 4269617 (W.D. Tex. 2010)....................12
`Thermotek, Inc. v. Orthoflex, Inc.,
`2016 WL 4678888 (N.D. Tex. 2016) ....................11
`In re TXCO Res., Inc.,
`475 B.R. 781 (Bankr. W.D. Tex. 2012) ................12
`U.S. Sporting Prod., Inc. v.
`Johnny Stewart Game Calls, Inc.,
`865 S.W.2d 214 (Tex. App. 1993).................4, 5, 12
`White v. Alcon Film Fund, LLC,
`2013 WL 12067479 (N.D. Ga. 2013)....................12
`Wilder v. CBS Corp.,
`2016 WL 693070 (C.D. Cal. 2016) .................10, 11
`Wissman v. Boucher,
`150 Tex. 326 (1951)..............................................17
`WJ Glob. LLC v. Farrell,
`941 F. Supp. 2d 688 (E.D.N.C. 2013) ............10, 11
`Worth v. Universal Pictures, Inc.,
`5 F. Supp. 2d 816 (C.D. Cal. 1997) ......................12
`Wrench LLC v. Taco Bell Corp.,
`256 F.3d 446 (6th Cir. 2001)..................................9
`
`

`

`viii
`
`TABLE OF AUTHORITIES—continued
`
`Page(s)
`
`Wyeth v. Levine,
`555 U.S. 555 (2009)........................................13, 17
`Statutes
`17 U.S.C.
`§ 102 ............................................................. passim
`§ 102(a) .................................................................14
`§ 102(b) ......................................................... passim
`§ 103 ............................................................. passim
`§ 106 ...................................................................1, 2
`§ 301 ............................................................. passim
`§ 301(a) ......................................................... passim
`§ 301(b)(1).............................................................14
`28 U.S.C. § 1254(1)......................................................1
`Miscellaneous
`H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476 (1976)..............................16, 17
`Melville B. Nimmer & David Nimmer,
`Nimmer on Copyright (Matthew Bender
`rev. ed.).............................................................8, 15
`
`

`

`PETITION FOR A WRIT OF CERTIORARI
`
`Petitioner respectfully petitions for a writ of cer-
`tiorari to review the judgment of the United States
`Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in this case.
`OPINIONS BELOW
`The opinion of the court of appeals (App., infra,
`1a-13a) can be found at 845 F.3d 652. The opinion of
`the district court (App., infra, 14a-24a) is unreported,
`but is available at 2015 WL 300488.
`JURISDICTION
`The judgment of the court of appeals was entered
`on January 11, 2017. This Court’s jurisdiction rests
`on 28 U.S.C. § 1254(1).
`STATUTORY PROVISIONS INVOLVED
`Section 102(b) of Title 17 of the U.S. Code pro-
`vides:
`In no case does copyright protection for an
`original work of authorship extend to any
`idea, procedure, process, system, method of
`operation, concept, principle, or discovery,
`regardless of the form in which it is de-
`scribed, explained, illustrated, or embodied
`in such work.
`Section 301 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code provides
`in relevant part:
`(a) On and after January 1, 1978, all legal or
`equitable rights that are equivalent to any of
`the exclusive rights within the general scope
`of copyright as specified by section 106 in
`works of authorship that are fixed in a tangi-
`ble medium of expression and come within
`
`

`

`2
`
`the subject matter of copyright as specified
`by sections 102 and 103, whether created be-
`fore or after that date and whether published
`or unpublished, are governed exclusively by
`this title. Thereafter, no person is entitled to
`any such right or equivalent right in any
`such work under the common law or statutes
`of any State.
`(b) Nothing in this title annuls or limits any
`rights or remedies under the common law or
`statutes of any State with respect to—
`(1) subject matter that does not come within
`the subject matter of copyright as specified
`by sections 102 and 103, including works of
`authorship not fixed in any tangible medium
`of expression; or
`* * *
`(3) activities violating legal or equitable
`rights that are not equivalent to any of the
`exclusive rights within the general scope of
`copyright as specified by section 106.
`STATEMENT
`An idea is categorically exempt from the subject
`matter eligible for copyright protection. Section
`102(b) of the Copyright Act provides that “[i]n no
`case does copyright protection for an original work of
`authorship extend to any idea.” 17 U.S.C. § 102(b).
`Meanwhile, Section 301(a) provides that
`the
`Copyright Act “exclusively” governs all rights relat-
`ing to “works of authorship that are fixed in a tangi-
`ble medium of expression and come within the sub-
`ject matter of copyright as specified by sections 102
`and 103.” 17 U.S.C. § 301(a).
`
`

`

`3
`
`The question presented in this case is whether
`Section 301(a) preempts a state-law claim for unfair
`competition arising from misappropriation of a valu-
`able idea.
`Reasoning that Section 301(a) preemption is ex-
`pressly limited to the subject matter of copyright,
`and further that Section 102(b) renders an idea out-
`side the scope of subject matter eligible for copyright
`protection, the Eleventh Circuit holds that Section
`301(a) does not preempt such a claim. Five circuits,
`including the court below, disagree.
`Here, an employee of petitioner misappropriated
`the design of an industrial valve. The core matter at
`issue is the idea of the valve’s design—and it is thus
`outside the subject matter governed by the Copyright
`Act. Respondents flatly acknowledge that the design
`of the valve is “non-copyrightable subject matter.” D.
`Ct. Dkt. No. 295, at 24. The Fifth Circuit agrees.
`App., infra, 7a-8a. Yet that court nonetheless held
`that Section 301 preemption bars petitioner’s misap-
`propriation claim.
`Review is warranted: there is a broadly acknowl-
`edged conflict among the circuits; this issue arises
`with considerable frequency; and the approach taken
`below is irreconcilable with the statutory text.
`A. Legal Background.
`1. The Copyright Act extends certain protections
`to expressions fixed in tangible media. But in provid-
`ing that “copyright protection for an original work of
`authorship” does not “extend to any idea” (17 U.S.C.
`§ 102(b)), the Copyright Act codifies the principle
`that “[n]o author may copyright his ideas or the facts
`he narrates.” Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Na-
`tion Enters., 471 U.S. 539, 556 (1985).
`
`

`

`4
`
`Section 301(a) expressly preempts state laws
`that would overlap with federal copyright protec-
`tions. It provides that the Copyright Act “exclusively”
`governs all rights relating to “works of authorship
`that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression
`and come within the subject matter of copyright as
`specified by sections 102 and 103.” 17 U.S.C.
`§ 301(a).
`To apply this statute, the courts of appeals have
`adopted a two-part analysis. See Forest Park Pictures
`v. Universal Television Network, Inc., 683 F.3d 424,
`429 (2d Cir. 2012). First, courts inquire as to wheth-
`er the material at issue is within the subject matter
`of copyright. Id. at 429-430. If it is, courts then con-
`sider whether the state-law claim is equivalent to
`any of the rights provided by the Copyright Act. Id.
`at 430-432.
`2. Drawing from this Court’s decision in Interna-
`tional News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215,
`(1918), Texas has established a tort of unfair compe-
`tition by means of misappropriation. See U.S. Sport-
`ing Prod., Inc. v. Johnny Stewart Game Calls, Inc.,
`865 S.W.2d 214, 218 (Tex. App. 1993). This cause of
`action has three elements:
`(i) the creation of plaintiff’s product through
`extensive time, labor, skill and money,
`(ii) the defendant’s use of that product in
`competition with the plaintiff, thereby gain-
`ing a special advantage in that competition
`(i.e., a “free ride”) because defendant is bur-
`dened with little or none of the expense in-
`curred by the plaintiff, and
`(iii) commercial damage to the plaintiff.
`
`

`

`5
`
`Ibid.
`Additionally, because the unfair competition
`claim requires a showing that the defendant engaged
`in conduct “contrary to honest practice in industrial
`or commercial matters,” unfair competition by mis-
`appropriation typically requires proof that the mis-
`appropriation was committed by an employee or one
`in a position of special trust with the claimant. Id. at
`217-218. See also BP Auto., L.P. v. RML Waxahachie
`Dodge, L.L.C., 448 S.W.3d 562, 572 (Tex. App. 2014).
`B. Factual Background.
`Respondent Thomas Mueller was an employee of
`Ultraflo Corporation (“Ultraflo”). Mueller signed “at
`least two employment agreements relating to work-
`place ethics including ‘conflict of interest’ and confi-
`dentiality provisions.” App., infra, 36a.
`Ultraflo manufactures valves and accessories for
`the transportation industry. App., infra, 2a. While
`employed by Ultraflo, Mueller aided the company in
`redesigning its Model 390 butterfly valve. Ibid.
`Mueller was a part of a team that developed the in-
`novative valve and recorded it in drawings that spec-
`ified its design and measurements. Ibid.
`Soon after Ultraflo introduced its valve to the
`market, Mueller left the company and joined Re-
`spondent Pelican Tank Parts, Inc. (“Pelican”). Ibid.
`Pelican later produced its own, nearly-identical
`valve, providing Pelican an entry into a market in
`which it had not previously competed. Ibid.
`C. Proceedings Below.
`Following other state and federal proceedings
`that have now terminated, Ultraflo brought this ac-
`tion in federal court. App., infra, 3a.
`
`

`

`6
`
`1. Ultraflo filed an amended complaint on Octo-
`ber 28, 2010, raising various state-law claims against
`Pelican, including unfair competition by means of
`misappropriation. App., infra, 37a. The district dis-
`missed this claim on preemption grounds. Id. at 35a-
`52a. The court reasoned that “[s]tate law claims of
`unfair competition by misappropriation generally are
`preempted when the acts that form the basis of the
`claim ‘touch on interests clearly protected by the
`Copyright Act.’” Id. at 45a-46a.
`Ultraflo realleged its unfair competition by
`means of misappropriation claim in its second
`amended complaint. The district court again dis-
`missed the claims: “Ultraflo’s state law claims of un-
`fair competition by misappropriation and conversion
`are preempted and therefore dismissed.” Id. at 28a.
`Ultraflo’s claims for misappropriation of trade
`secrets and copyright infringement proceeded to a ju-
`ry trial, which returned a defense verdict. App., in-
`fra, 14a-15a.
`2. Ultraflo appealed the dismissal of its unfair
`competition by misappropriation claim. App., infra,
`5a. Relying on its earlier decision, Spear Mktg., Inc.
`v. BancorpSouth Bank, 791 F.3d 586, 596-597 (5th
`Cir. 2015), a panel of the Fifth Circuit affirmed.
`App., infra, 1a-13a.
`To begin with, the panel agreed that petitioner’s
`“valve design is not protected under the Copyright
`Act: it is either a useful article or an idea.” App., in-
`fra, 7a. The court nonetheless found that Section
`301(a) “preempts state protection of works that fall
`within the subject matter (that is, the scope) of copy-
`right regardless whether the works are actually af-
`forded protection under the Copyright Act.” Id. at 8a.
`
`

`

`7
`
`The court concluded that “Congress’s exercise of its
`power under the Copyright Clause to not provide
`protection for the embodiment of ideas in useful arti-
`cles is entitled to preemptive force.” Id. at 9a.
`Additionally, the panel found that “Texas’s un-
`fair competition by misappropriation cause of action
`does not afford protection materially different from
`federal copyright law.” App., infra, 10a. The Court
`thus found that
`“the Copyright Act preempted
`Ultraflo’s unfair competition claim.” Id. at 13a.
`REASONS FOR GRANTING THE PETITION
`This petition presents a clear conflict among the
`circuits. The Eleventh Circuit holds that, because an
`idea is outside the scope of copyright subject matter
`eligibility, Section 301(a) of the Copyright Act does
`not preempt state-law claims relating to theft of an
`idea. Dunlap v. G&L Holding Grp., Inc., 381 F.3d
`1285, 1294 (11th Cir. 2004). Five circuits disagree.
`The Court should resolve this circuit split. The
`issue arises with considerable frequency. And the de-
`cision below—which unduly extends the scope of the
`preemption statute far beyond its plain terms—is in-
`correct. Certiorari is thus warranted.
`A. The Circuits Are Expressly Divided.
`This
`conflict among
`the
`circuits
`is well-
`recognized. Dunlap itself acknowledged its departure
`from holdings of the Fourth and Sixth Circuits. Dun-
`lap, 381 F.3d at 1295 n.18. More recently, the Fifth
`Circuit identified this “clear and lopsided split”
`among the “circuits.” Spear Mktg., 791 F.3d at 595.
`Several lower courts have likewise confirmed the
`conflict. See, e.g., Found. for Lost Boys v. Alcon
`Entm’t, LLC, 2016 WL 4394486, at *11 (N.D. Ga.
`
`

`

`8
`
`2016). 1 And a leading copyright treatise notes the
`“controversy” surrounding the issue. 1 Melville B.
`Nimmer & David Nimmer, Nimmer on Copyright §
`1.01 [B][2][c] (Matthew Bender rev. ed.).
`1. Based on “a plain reading of the Copyright
`Act, its legislative history, and consideration of rele-
`vant circuit court cases,” the Eleventh Circuit held
`that the preemption provision applies to “only those
`elements that are substantively qualified for copy-
`right protection.” Dunlap, 381 F.3d at 1294-1295.
`Because “ideas are substantively excluded from the
`protection of the Copyright Act, they do not fall with-
`in the subject matter of copyright.” Id. at 1295. Thus,
`the court concluded that a “claim for conversion” of a
`plaintiff’s “ideas” is “not preempted by the Copyright
`Act.” Id. at 1297.
`2. Five other courts of appeals—the Second,
`Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits—disagree.
`In United States ex rel. Berge v. Board of Trustees
`of the Univ. of Alabama, 104 F.3d 1453, 1463 (4th
`Cir. 1997), the Fourth Circuit held that Section 301
`preempts a state-law claim regarding theft of an
`idea. Although the court recognized that “the Act
`specifically excludes” ideas “from protection,” it stat-
`ed that “the shadow actually cast by the Act’s
`preemption is notably broader than the wing of its
`protection.” Ibid.
`Other circuits have followed this lead. The Se-
`cond Circuit holds “that works may fall within the
`
`1 See also Counts v. Meriwether, 2015 WL 12656945, at *5
`(C.D. Cal. 2015); Giordano v. Claudio, 714 F. Supp. 2d 508, 532
`(E.D. Pa. 2010); Meridian Project Sys., Inc. v. Hardin Constr.
`Co., 2006 WL 1062070, at *3 (E.D. Cal. 2006).
`
`

`

`9
`
`subject matter of copyright, and thus be subject to
`preemption, even if they contain material that is
`uncopyrightable under section 102.” Forest Park Pic-
`tures, 683 F.3d at 429. Thus, “[t]he scope of copyright
`for preemption purposes * * * extends beyond the
`scope of available copyright protection.” Id. at 429-
`430. See also Nat’l Basketball Ass’n v. Motorola, Inc.,
`105 F.3d 841, 849 (2d Cir. 1997) (“Copyrightable ma-
`terial often contains uncopyrightable elements with-
`in it, but Section 301 preemption bars state law mis-
`appropriation claims with respect to uncopyrightable
`as well as copyrightable elements.”).
`The Sixth Circuit has “joined several other cir-
`cuits in holding that for purposes of preemption, the
`scope of the Copyright Act’s subject matter is broader
`than the scope of its protection.” Stromback v. New
`Line Cinema, 384 F.3d 283, 300 (6th Cir. 2004) (cit-
`ing Wrench LLC v. Taco Bell Corp., 256 F.3d 446,
`455 (6th Cir. 2001)). That court also holds that Sec-
`tion 301 preemption applies “if a work fits within the
`general subject matter of Sections 102 and 103 of the
`Copyright Act, regardless of whether it qualifies for
`copyright protection.” Ibid.
`The Ninth Circuit agrees that “the scope of the
`subject matter of copyright law is broader than the
`protections it affords.” Montz v. Pilgrim Films & Tel-
`evision, Inc., 649 F.3d 975, 979 (9th Cir. 2011).
`Finally, the Fifth Circuit has adopted this same
`holding. In Spear Mktg., 791 F.3d at 595-597, the
`Fifth Circuit
`canvassed the circuit
`“split” and
`“join[ed] the majority position.” It thus held “that
`state law claims based on ideas fixed in tangible me-
`dia are preempted by § 301(a).” Id. at 597.
`
`

`

`10
`
`This holding governed the outcome here. The
`court acknowledged that “Ultraflo is correct that its
`valve design is not protected under the Copyright
`Act: it is either a useful article or an idea.” App., in-
`fra, 7a. The Court nevertheless held that Section 301
`“preempts state protection of works that fall within
`the subject matter (that is, the scope) of copyright,
`regardless whether the works are actually afforded
`protection under the Copyright Act.” Id. at 8a.
`B. The Question Presented Is Important.
`The question presented warrants this Court’s re-
`view both because it arises with considerable fre-
`quency and because the decision below improperly
`encroaches on the authority of Texas to define state-
`law causes of action.
`1. This issue recurs in a great variety of contexts.
`It arises in lawsuits regarding confidential business
`information. See, e.g., Blue Nile, Inc. v. Ice.com, Inc.,
`478 F. Supp. 2d 1240 (W.D. Wash. 2007); Kantemirov
`v. Goldine, 2005 WL 1593533 (N.D. Cal. 2005). It is
`often addressed when a plaintiff claims that a story
`idea was misappropriated. See, e.g., Stromback v.
`New Line Cinema, 984 F.3d 283 (6th Cir. 2004); Wil-
`der v. CBS Corp., 2016 WL 693070 (C.D. Cal. 2016);
`Idema v. Dreamworks, 162 F. Supp. 2d 1129 (C.D.
`Cal. 2001). And it recurs in the context of software.
`See, e.g., Media.net Advert. FZ-LLC v. Netseer, Inc.,
`2016 WL 4036092 (N.D. Cal. 2016); Priority Payment
`Sys., LLC v. Signapay, Ltd., 161 F. Supp. 3d 1285
`(N.D. Ga. 2015); WJ Glob. LLC v. Farrell, 941 F.
`Supp. 2d 688 (E.D.N.C. 2013).
`
`

`

`11
`
`There is no doubt, moreover, that this issue is
`frequently litigated. Courts in the Second,2 Third,3
`Fourth, 4 Fifth, 5 Sixth, 6 Seventh, 7 Eighth, 8 Ninth, 9
`
`2 See, e.g., Gary Friedrich Enters., LLC v. Marvel Enters., Inc.,
`713 F. Supp. 2d 215, 227 (S.D.N.Y. 2010); A Slice of Pie Prods.,
`LLC v. Wayans Bros. Entm’t, 392 F. Supp. 2d 297, 315 (D.
`Conn. 2005); Katz Dochrermann & Epstein, Inc. v. Home Box
`Office, 1999 WL 179603, at *2-3 (S.D.N.Y. 1999); Boyle v. Ste-
`phens Inc., 1998 WL 690816, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. 1998).
`3 See, e.g., Giordano v. Claudio, 714 F. Supp. 2d 508, 532 (E.D.
`Pa. 2010).
`4 See, e.g., WJ Glob. LLC v. Farrell, 941 F. Supp. 2d 688
`(E.D.N.C. 2013); Ground Zero Museum Workshop v. Wilson, 813
`F. Supp. 2d 678, 695 (D. Md. 2011); Coll. of Charleston Found.
`v. Ham, 585 F. Supp. 2d 737, 745 (D.S.C. 2008).
`5 See, e.g., First Am. Bankcard, Inc. v. Smart Bus. Tech., Inc.,
`2016 WL 5869787, at *7 (E.D. La. 2016); Thermotek, Inc. v.
`Orthoflex, Inc., 2016 WL 4678888, at *7 (N.D. Tex. 2016);
`Beardmore v. Jacobsen, 131 F. Supp. 3d 656, 670 (S.D. Tex.
`2015); Suncoast Post-Tension, Ltd. v. Scoppa, 2014 WL
`12596471, at *11 (S.D. Tex. 2014); M–I LLC v. Stelly, 733 F.
`Supp. 2d 759, 792 (S.D. Tex. 2010).
`6 See, e.g., Entity Prod. v. Vargo, 2007 WL 3129861, at *3 (N.D.
`Ohio 2007).
`7 See, e.g., Act II Jewelry, LLC v. Wooten, 2016 WL 3671451, at
`*5 (N.D. Ill. 2016); Micro Data Base Sys., Inc. v. Nellcor Puri-
`tan-Bennett, Inc., 20 F. Supp. 2d 1258, 1262-1263 (N.D. Ind.
`1998).
`8 See, e.g., Pinnacle Pizza Co. v. Little Caesar Enters., Inc., 395
`F. Supp. 2d 891, 899-900 (D.S.D. 2005).
`9 See, e.g., Wilder v. CBS Corp., 2016 WL 693070 (C.D. Cal.
`2016); Media.net Advert. FZ-LLC v. Netseer, Inc., 2016 WL
`4036092 (N.D. Cal. 2016); Doody v. Penguin Grp. (USA) Inc.,
`673 F. Supp. 2d 1144, 1165 (D. Haw. 2009); Blue Nile, Inc. v.
`Ice.com, Inc., 478 F. Supp. 2d 1240 (W.D. Wash. 2007); Meridi-
`an Project Sys., Inc. v. Hardin Constr. Co., 2006 WL 1062070, at
`*3-4 (E.D. Cal. 2006); Kantemirov v. Goldine, 2005 WL 1593533
`(N.D. Cal. 2005); Idema v. Dreamworks, 162 F. Supp. 2d 1129
`
`

`

`12
`
`Tenth,10 and Eleventh11 Circuits are regularly con-
`fronted with this question.
`2. The question also warrants review because it
`concerns the appropriate balance of federal and state
`authority.
`Texas has established a cause of action for unfair
`competition by misappropriation. See U.S. Sporting
`Prod., Inc. v. Johnny Stewart Game Calls, Inc., 865
`S.W.2d 214, 218 (Tex. App. 1993). This cause of ac-
`tion uniquely guards against misappropriation of
`valuable ideas by those in a position of confidence—
`precisely the sort of misconduct that occurred here.
`The Copyright Act, of course, provides no similar
`protection.
`Texas litigants often invoke this law, seeking the
`legal safeguards that Texas has established. See,
`e.g., Dresser-Rand Co. v. Virtual Automation Inc.,
`361 F.3d 831, 839 (5th Cir. 2004); Orchestratehr, Inc.
`v. Trombetta, 2016 WL 4563348, at *12 (N.D. Tex.
`2016); Schwimmer v. Presidio Indus. LLC, 2011 WL
`13089398, at *7 (N.D. Tex. 2011); Target Strike, Inc.
`v. Marston & Marston, Inc., 2010 WL 4269617, at *4
`
`(C.D. Cal. 2001); Endemol Entm’t B.V. v. Twentieth Television
`Inc., 1998 WL 785300, at *3 (C.D. Cal. 1998); Worth v. Univer-
`sal Pictures, Inc., 5 F. Supp. 2d 816, 822-823 (C.D. Cal. 1997).
`10 See, e.g., Kindergartners Count, Inc. v. Demoulin, 171 F.
`Supp. 2d 1183, 1193 (D. Kan. 2001); Malik v. Lynk, Inc., 1999
`WL 760217, at *3 (D. Kan. 1999).
`11 See, e.g., Found. for Lost Boys v. Alcon Entm’t, LLC, 2016 WL
`4394486, at *11 (N.D. Ga. 2016); Priority Payment Sys., LLC v.
`Signapay, Ltd., 161 F. Supp. 3d 1285 (N.D. Ga. 2015); White v.
`Alcon Film Fund, LLC, 2013 WL 12067479, at *3 (N.D. Ga.
`2013); Jaggon v. Rebel Rock Entm’t, Inc., 2010 WL 3468101, at
`*3 (S.D. Fla. 2010); SCQuARE Int’l, Ltd. v. BBDO Atlanta, Inc.,
`455 F. Supp. 2d 1347, 1360-1361 (N.D. Ga. 2006).
`
`

`

`13
`
`(W.D. Tex. 2010); Sefton v. Jew, 201 F. Supp. 2d 730,
`749 (W.D. Tex. 2001); In re TXCO Res., Inc., 475 B.R.
`781, 837 (Bankr. W.D. Tex. 2012); BP Auto., 448
`S.W.3d at 572 (Tex. App. 2014).
`The Fifth Circuit’s holding nullifies this cause of
`action—at least in substantial part. This ruling thus
`encroaches upon Texas’ “broad authority” to provide
`“for the public good.” Bond v. United States, 134 S.
`Ct. 2077, 2086 (2014). Because the law recognizes
`“respect for the States as ‘independent sovereigns in
`our federal system,’” (Wyeth v. Levine, 555 U.S. 555,
`565 n.3 (2009)), review of this question is imperative.
`C. The Decision Below Is Wrong.
`The broadly-acknowledged split among the cir-
`cuits as to the meaning of Section 301(a) of the Copy-
`right Act—a question which we have shown recurs
`with frequency—is reason enough to warrant a grant
`of certiorari. But the need for review is all the more
`pressing because the result reached below is wrong.
`The decision below is irreconcilable with the
`plain text of the Copyright Act, it disregards the
`clear statutory purpose, and it improperly intrudes
`on the States’ ability to regulate competition by pro-
`tecting ideas that are categorically outside the scope
`of the Copyright Act.
`1. The text of the Copyright Act compels the con-
`clusion that Section 301(a) does not preempt state-
`law claims regarding ideas that are excluded from
`the subject matter eligible for copyright protection.
`Resolving the scope of a “pre-emption provision
`begins ‘with the language of the statute itself,’ and
`that ‘is also where the inquiry should end,’” when,
`like here, “the statute’s language is plain.” Puerto Ri-
`
`

`

`14
`
`co v. Franklin Cal. Tax-Free Tr., 136 S. Ct. 1938,
`1946 (2016). Tellingly, the Eleventh Circuit carefully
`tethered its analysis to the statutory text (see Dun-
`lap, 381 F.3d at 1294-1295); by contrast, the other
`circuits, in holding that Section 301(a) reaches ideas
`outside the scope of copyright subject matter, do not
`explain how this result comports with the language
`of the statute (see, e.g., Berge, 104 F.3d at 1463;
`Spear Mktg., 791 F.3d at 594-598).
`Section 301(a) expressly defines the scope of fed-
`eral preemption: the Copyright Act “govern[s] exclu-
`sively” “all legal or equitable rights that are equiva-
`lent to any of the exclusive rights within the general
`scope of copyright.” 17 U.S.C. § 301(a). This applies
`to “works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible
`medium of expression and come within the subject
`matter of copyright as specified

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