In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Best Carpet Values, Inc. and Thomas D. Rutledge initiated a class action lawsuit against Google, LLC. The plaintiffs argued that Google, through its Search App on Android phones, displayed their websites in a way that occupied valuable space for which Google should have paid. They contended that Google received all the benefits of advertising from the use of that space. The plaintiffs made state-law claims for trespass to chattels, implied-in-law contract and unjust enrichment, and violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law.
The court reviewed questions certified by the district court for interlocutory review. In response to the first question, the court ruled that the website copies displayed on a user’s screen should not be protected as chattel, concluding that a cognizable property right did not exist in a website copy. As a result, the plaintiffs’ trespass to chattels claim was dismissed.
Addressing the third question, the court held that website owners cannot invoke state law to control how their websites are displayed on a user’s screen without being preempted by federal copyright law. The court determined that the manner in which the plaintiffs’ websites were displayed fell within the subject matter of federal copyright law. It also found that the rights asserted by the plaintiffs’ implied-in-law contract and unjust enrichment claim were equivalent to the rights provided by federal copyright law. Thus, the plaintiffs’ state-law claim was preempted by federal copyright law.
Given these findings, the court did not address the other certified questions. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the district court erred in denying Google’s motion to dismiss and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss. View “Best Carpet Values, Inc. v. Google LLC” on Justia Law