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Vil v. Poteau

United States District Court, District of Massachusetts

March 3, 2015

SMITH VIL, Plaintiff,


Denise J. Casper United States District Judge

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Smith Vil ("Vil") filed this action against Jacky Poteau f/k/a Jacques Poteau ("Poteau"), Ricardo Bonachy Telemaque f/k/a Beaudelaire Telemaque ("Telemaque"), John Erick Noel, Gabrielle Rene (collectively, the "Individual Defendants") and the Foundation for the Technological and Economic Advancement of Mirebalais, Inc. ("FATEM") (together with the Individual Defendants, the "Defendants") asserting claims for copyright infringement, unfair competition, breach of an implied contract, declaratory judgment and equitable relief. D. 1.

Defendants have now moved for summary judgment. D. 90 and 92. For the reasons stated below, the Court ALLOWS the motions.

II. Standard of Review

The Court grants summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the undisputed facts demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A fact is material if it carries with it the potential to affect the outcome of the suit under applicable law." Santiago–Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000); see Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets its burden, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations or denials in its pleadings, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986), but must come forward with specific admissible facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano–Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010). The Court "view[s] the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing reasonable inferences in his favor." Noonan v. Staples Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

III. Factual Background

The following facts are as described in the Defendants' statement of material facts, D. 94, and Vil's affidavit in opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, D. 110. Vil did not respond to Defendants' statement of material facts.

In 2006, Vil founded the non-profit organization FATEM and served as its Vice President and a member of its board of directors. D. 94 ¶ 3; D. 107 at 2. FATEM is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization based in Brockton, Massachusetts. D. 94 ¶ 1. Poteau is President and Executive Director of FATEM. D. 110 ¶ 3. Telemaque is an Associate Executive Director of FATEM. Id.

All of the Individual Defendants serve on FATEM's board of directors. Id. On September 9, 2009, Vil was terminated from FATEM, and his involvement with the organization ended. D. 94 ¶¶ 4-5. Vil alleges that the Individual Defendants secretly acted to remove him from FATEM's operations. D. 110 ¶ 7.

On January 21, 2011, after his termination from FATEM, Vil filed for copyright protection with the U.S. Copyright Office for a "learning program" called "Learn to Read and Write is a Right" (the "Program"). D. 94 ¶ 6; D. 110 ¶¶ 4-5. Vil claims to have "created" this Program in 2007 while working at FATEM. D. 110 ¶ 4. He received a copyright from the Register of Copyrights which bore the registration number TXu001703966. D. 94 ¶ 6. Vil describes the materials submitted to the copyright office as a textual description of the Program. Id. ¶ 7. Vil has not, however, produced a copy of these materials. Id.

Vil alleges that Defendants, without authorization, continued to reproduce, display, advertise and distribute Vil's copyrighted materials. D. 110 ¶¶ 7, 21. Vil further alleges that Defendants "continued to use [Vil's] creative works to attract donors, " who have contributed over a million dollars to the Program. Id. ¶ 11.

IV. Procedural History

On September 21, 2011, Vil filed this lawsuit against Defendants. D. 1. Defendants moved to dismiss the action on March 23, 2012. D. 15. On November 28, 2012, the Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss in part and allowed Vil leave to amend his intellectual property rights claim. D. 25. On January 9, 2013, Vil filed an amended complaint against the Defendants, asserting claims for copyright infringement pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq. (Count I), unfair competition in violation of 15 U.S.C. ยงยง 1117, 1125(a) ...

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