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Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. v. Camp Systems Int'l.

428 F. Supp. 2d 1369, 4:05 CV 00018-BAE (S.D. Ga. April 18, 2006)

Unauthorized Use Of Maintenance Manual Held Non-Infringing Fair Use Of Copyrighted Materials

Court holds that the use by defendant Camp Systems International ("Camp") of maintenance manuals prepared by plaintiff Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation ("Gulfstream") to advise owners of the need for maintenance of their Gulfstream aircraft is a permissible fair use of those manuals.  Court accordingly grants Camp's motion for summary judgment, and dismisses both copyright and trademark infringement claims advanced by Gulfstream arising out the placement by Camp of portions of those manuals on its computer system, which manuals Camp made available, and transmitted, to both the aircraft's owner and appropriate repair personnel.

Gulfstream Produces Maintenance Manuals

Plaintiff Gulfstream manufactures airplanes.  Regulations promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") require Gulfstream to both prepare maintenance manuals for these aircraft, and make them available to plane owners and FAA licensed maintenance facilities.  Among other things these regulations require that the manuals include details on "the airplane and its systems, basic control and operation information, servicing information, maintenance instructions, troubleshooting information, [and] information regarding the order and method of removing parts…".

Gulfstream's manuals include extensive lists of maintenance tasks aircraft owners should perform on their planes.  Gulfstream holds copyrights in both its manuals, and revisions thereto.

Camp Uses Plaintiff's Manuals In Its Maintenance Tracking Business

Defendant Camp offers "maintenance tracking" services to its customers.  Pursuant to FAA regulations, aircraft owners are obligated both to perform various scheduled maintenance tasks, and to maintain a record of the performance of such tasks.  Camp assists its customers in meeting these obligations both by alerting them to the need and timing of scheduled maintenance, and by keeping a record of performed tasks.  This information is available for customer review at Camp's web site.

To assist its customers, it is necessary for Camp to have access to the appropriate maintenance manuals for their planes.  While others manufacturers gave Camp such access, Gulfstream refused.

Camp nonetheless decided to offer owners of Gulfstream aircraft maintenance tracking services.  To subscribe for such services, Camp required a plane owner to supply the Gulfstream maintenance manual for its plane.  Camp then copied portions of this manual which it used to advise the owner who supplied it, and appropriate repair personnel servicing his plane, of the need to perform scheduled maintenance.  As part of this process, copies of pertinent pages from Gulfstream's manuals were placed by Camp on its computer system, and sent by Camp to owners and repair personnel.  The license Gulfstream granted owners for these manuals permitted the owner to disclose them to others "to maintain, operate or repair the aircraft."

Camp's use of plaintiff's manuals in this fashion did not adversely impact Gulfstream's manual sales.  Each owner of a plane who utilized Camp's services still had to purchase the maintenance manual.  Indeed, they were required to do so to subscribe to Camp's service.  Similarly, the repair shops that performed any scheduled maintenance were also required by applicable regulations to obtain a copy of the manual before performing repair services.

Camp's use of these manuals did, however, interfere with plaintiff's own "maintenance tracking" services.  As a result, Gulfstream commenced this suit, charging Camp with both copyright and trademark infringement.  Finding Camp's use of plaintiff's manuals and marks a permitted fair use, the Court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment, and dismissed plaintiff's copyright and trademark infringement claims.

Permissible Fair Use Of Copyrights Works

The Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §107, enumerates four factors courts should analyze in determining whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is a permitted fair use.  According to the Court, the most important of these factors is the effect of the alleged infringer's use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.  The Court found that this factor "heavily favored" Camp, because its use of plaintiff's manuals did not adversely impact Gulfstream's licensing thereof either to aircraft owners, who were obligated by Camp to supply a copy of the manual to participate in its program, or repair shops, who were obligated by FAA regulations to have the manual to perform repair work.

In reaching this result, the Court rejected plaintiff's claim that it should consider the interference Camp's use caused to plaintiff's own maintenance tracking services because this would be contrary to the purposes the Copyright Act was designed to achieve.  Said the Court:

[W]hat Gulfstream seeks here is to use its claimed copyright in its manuals to gain a judicially-enforced monopoly in maintenance tracking services for Gulfstream aircraft.  That outcome would be injurious to the free-market public policy advanced through antitrust and restraint-of-trade laws.  It would be especially egregious since Gulfstream is required by federal regulations to produce the manuals anyway.  Again, those federal regulations leave Gulfstream little room to make decisions regarding either the format or the content of those manuals.  Gulfstream's monopolization efforts should not get an assist from the Court through an expansive reading of copyright law.

Of the remaining factors, the court found that the factual nature of the work at issue favored a finding of fair use, while the commercial nature of Camp's use, its non-transformative nature, and the substantial portion of the work copied in this process, favored a finding of infringement.

Balancing these factors, and giving appropriate weight to the lack of impact of defendant's use on the market for the copyrighted work, the Court concluded that Camp had made a fair use of plaintiff's manuals, and dismissed plaintiff's copyright infringement claims.

Use Of Trademarks Also Permissible Fair Use

The Court also found that Camp's use of plaintiff's trademarks was a permitted fair use.  Camp used plaintiff's mark to advise customers and prospects that it could offer maintenance tracking services for Gulfstream aircraft.  Such marks were also contained on the copies of pages of Gulfstream's manuals Camp transmitted. 

The Court applied the "fair use" test set forth by the 9th Circuit in its New Kids decision: 

First, the product or service in question must be one not readily identifiable without use of the trademark; second, only so much of the trademark may be used as is reasonably necessary to identify the product or service; and third, the user must do nothing that would, in conjunction with the trademark, suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder.

The Court found that the challenged use of plaintiff's mark was a permissible fair use under this standard.  First, use of the mark was necessary to describe the types of aircraft defendant could provide maintenance tracking services for.  Second, there was no suggestion that Camp's activities were sponsored by Gulfstream, especially in light of the express disclaimer of any such sponsorship sent by Camp to its customers.  Finally, defendant did not use more of the mark than necessary to identify the product or service, even though plaintiff's mark appeared on each page of its manual that Camp distributed to repair shops.  Any interest Gulfstream had in protecting its mark was outweighed by the safety concerns arising out of the repair shops need to know that the information they received were indeed authentic maintenance information coming from the manufacturer.  As a result of its finding of fair use, the Court dismissed plaintiff's trademark infringement claims as well.

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