Premier Dealer Services, Inc. v. Allegiance Administrators, LLC

Opinion Date: February 26, 2024

In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Premier Dealer Services, a developer and administrator of automobile dealers’ aftermarket products, sued Allegiance Administrators for infringing its copyright. The issue stemmed from Premier’s creation of a Lifetime Powertrain Loyalty Program, which included a loyalty certificate that set out the program’s terms and conditions. Premier had registered this certificate for copyright protection. When Allegiance started working with a former Premier client, it used Premier’s Lifetime Powertrain Loyalty Program certificates in its own plan, with minor modifications in the contact information.

In the lawsuit, the district court ruled that Allegiance had infringed Premier’s copyright, ordered Allegiance to give up any profits from using the certificates, and awarded Premier attorney’s fees. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the decision of the lower court.

The appellate court held that Premier’s certificate was “original” and thus protected by copyright. The court clarified that originality in copyright law has a low threshold, requiring only that the author independently created a work with some minimal degree of creativity. The court rejected Allegiance’s argument that the certificates were scenes a faire—stock or standard phrases that necessarily follow from a common theme or setting, which are not protectable by copyright. The court found that Allegiance had not provided sufficient evidence that industry standards or other external constraints dictated the content of the certificates.

Regarding the disgorgement of profits, the court agreed with the lower court’s calculations. It noted that Premier had successfully shown a reasonable relationship between Allegiance’s infringement and its gross revenues. The burden then shifted to Allegiance to demonstrate which part of its gross revenues did not result from the infringement, but Allegiance failed to fulfill this burden.

Finally, the court upheld the award of attorney’s fees to Premier, finding that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in characterizing Allegiance’s arguments as unreasonable and contrary to settled law. View “Premier Dealer Services, Inc. v. Allegiance Administrators, LLC” on Justia Law

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