Monday, January 6, 2014

Silverman v. CBS, Inc. case brief

Silverman v. CBS, Inc. case brief summary
870 F.2d 40 (1989)

Appellant, scriptwriter of a Broadway musical, sought review of a decision of the District Court for the Southern District of New York, which awarded appellee radio station damages, declaratory relief, and an injunction, in a suit raising claims of trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.S § 1125(a), and copyright infringement under the 1909 Copyright Act.

Appellant wrote a script for a musical based on characters that originally appeared on defendant's radio programs. Appellant filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration that these radio programs broadcast before 1948 were in the public domain, and appellee counterclaimed, alleging that appellant's script violated appellee's copyrights and violated the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1125(a) by infringing various trademarks.

The trial court ruled that although pre-1948 radio programs were in the public domain, appellee had copyrights in scripts for post-1948 radio programs and that appellant had infringed these copyrights and that appellant had also infringed appellee's trademarks.


  • The appellate court reversed on the trademark issue, holding that appellee had abandoned its trademarks through years of nonuse; but on the copyright infringement claim, the court held that copyrights in post-1948 radio scripts provided protection only for increments of expression beyond what was contained in earlier radio scripts. 
  • Although parts of appellant's script infringed these rights, other parts did not.
The decision was vacated as to trademark infringement claims, affirmed in part as to copyright infringement claims, and although a monetary award for infringement was affirmed, the case was remanded for entry of a revised judgment including declaratory and injunctive relief to appellee and declaratory relief to appellant.

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