Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a federal jury’s award of $26 million to mining tire inventor Jordan Fishman and his companies in a decision that has important implications for American inventors and authors in an increasingly global economy.
In July 2010, a jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia listened to testimony for six days regarding how Mr. Fishman had his life’s work stolen by two foreign companies.
The lawsuit alleged that Shandong Linglong Rubber Company, Ltd., a billion dollar tire manufacturer based in China, and Al Dobowi Ltd., a multi-million dollar tire distributor based in Dubai, conspired with one of Mr. Fishman’s former employees to illegally copy Mr. Fishman’s blueprints and then to manufacture and sell millions of dollars of counterfeit versions of his tires overseas. The jury held that Shandong Linglong Rubber Company, Ltd., Al Dobowi Ltd., and certain of their affiliates were jointly and severally liable for infringing Mr. Fishman’s copyrights in the blueprints and awarded Mr. Fishman $26 million dollars. The award is one of the largest awards to an individual for copyright infringement in U.S. history, and it was the largest jury verdict in Virginia in 2010.
On appeal, Shandong Linglong Rubber Company, Ltd. and Al Dobowi Ltd. argued that the jury’s verdict should be overturned because their sales of the counterfeit tires occurred overseas and therefore beyond the reach of the United States Copyright Act. The Federal Court of Appeals rejected their argument, holding that a plaintiff may collect damages from foreign violations of the Copyright Act so long as the foreign conduct stems from a domestic infringement.
“The case is a significant legal precedent because it reaffirms that foreign citizens and companies cannot escape accountability for violations of the Copyright Act by limiting their exploitation of those violations to locations outside of the United States,” said William E. Copley, Mr. Fishman’s lead counsel on appeal and a partner with Weisbrod Matteis & Copley PLLC.
August J. Matteis, Jr., Mr. Fishman’s lead trial counsel and the Chairman of Weisbrod Matteis & Copley PLLC, added that “this case should serve as a bellwether for foreign multinational corporations who believe they can act with impunity, stealing intellectual property from a small U.S. business, and then avoid the reach of our judicial system.”
Throughout the litigation, Mr. Fishman has been represented by August J. Matteis, William E. Copley, and Kathleen M. S. Hale, all of whom currently are partners of Weisbrod Matteis & Copley PLLC.