| Ehtya v. Levici
|Supreme Court: 5/26/15 - 6/3/15|
|Full Case Name||Aaron Ehtya v. Pevolt Levici|
|Ronald Afferson, Adelyn Ewart, Satine Ehtya (abstained)|
|The Ehtya Family had an implied copyright to the word "General" in business names.|
|Majority Opinion||Adelyn Ewart|
Pevolt Levici applied for a business account to be called "General Grants and Investments" on May 23, 2015. Aaron Ehtya, the CEO of companies General Media, General Defense, and General Construction, and relative of Pierce Ehtya (the owner of General Government) filed suit against Levici in response claiming that "the 'general' title was copyrighted under 15 UTC §4(a)(3) and reserved for businesses owned, created, or managed by the Ehtya family." The following complaint was issued:
On May 23, 2015, Pevolt Levici registered for a business called "General Grants and Investments" which was confirmed by acting Head of Commerce Charles Sessions. The Ehtya family currently owns businesses General Media, General Defense, General Construction, and General Government and, due to the abundance and common association to our family with the "General" title, this is copyrighted and owned by our family - certainly when it appears at the beginning of a business. We request reparations that Levici's "General Grants and Investments" company be revoked and removed and that the Ehtya Trust be paid legal expenses pertaining to this matter.
The suit was referred to the Supreme Court which decided the case did have standing and agreed to take it up, requesting an answer from Levici. Aaron Ehtya also requested an injunction from the Supreme Court that Levici be unable to do anything with this new business account and that it be placed on hold to which the court issued the following on May 23, 2015 at 10:05 AM ET:
Mr. Levici, this is an injunction requiring you to, within the next 24 hours, cease all activity regarding to the "General Grants and Investments" business account due to current litigation on the subject. This injunction shall end effective 11:59 PM on June 22 or until waived by the court or Mr. Ehtya.
Levici returned an answer on May 23 in which he had no contest with the fact that he did register business but disagreed with the presumption that the Ehtya family reserved all rights to the word "General" in business matters. Levici agreed that he would file a summary judgement as he did not contest what had happened but solely disagreed with the premise of Ehtya's issue, so he desired the court to simply rule on the matter as to whether they found Ehtya's claims to be legitimate. This would bring the trial immediately to closing arguments when the court was ready.
As Justice Ehtya abstained, the court held 2-1 that Mr. Ehtya's case against Mr. Levici was legitimate and that Mr. Levici's business violated Mr. Ehtya's rights, ordering that Mr. Levici's business be dissolved or renamed. The court did not give any additional relief to Mr. Ehtya other than issuing such order.
Written by Justice Ewart:
Considering the law and the arguments made, there is agreement that an implied copyright considering the pattern of businesses and brand recognition is in effect. The court agrees that the legal standard set by Mr. Ehtya is adequate in that, "If a pattern can be established, if there is definitive brand recognition, and that the word or phrase is particular, there is an implied copyright to present and future use of that word or phrase in business dealings." A pattern need not be more than two businesses or institutions but must certainly be more than one, provided that the word is particular and consistent (the word "business" or "Triumvirate" or "corporation" or "company" or "union" certainly does not meet this standard). The more particular the better, as both parties noted, it's certainly easier to claim rights to something like "Blue Glass" rather than "General" but that does not necessarily state in and of itself that a singular word is not particular. Names are perhaps the most appropriate example and it should be implied that a person has a particular right to their name in business ventures (it would be completely improper for someone to register a business called "Ehtya Designs" who was not a member of the Ehtya family), which is why we find the argument of implied rights to have particular merit. Brand recognition, on the other hand, is important in that a business that has never performed any action but was created solely to keep the name would not meet this standard, so a balance must be kept in mind.
However, due caution must be exercised considering the long-term implications of this ruling and this decision should not carry the weight that a business possesses unlimited access and use to each and every word that they have a history with but rather that, with regards certainly to the common opening title of a business, if there is a consistent pattern, brand recognition, and particular usage, that the business has an applied copyright in that regard. For example, as Mr. Levici noted in his arguments, the effect of the business and their product (unless it be particular) is not grounds for meeting these standards as one cannot claim rights to word "design" or "publishing", as these are two commonplace business ventures. Due respect and caution should be given to the consideration and decision of the Department of Commerce in registering new businesses so as to most effectively authorize businesses that will not infringe upon the rights of each other considering this decision. The title of "General" is perhaps as close to failing the rules we've set here as an implied right can be while still maintaining that right, so bear that in mind.
The Department of Commerce is hereby instructed to strike "General Grants and Investments" as a recognized institution and to replace it with whatever name Mr. Levici finds most appropriate considering this ruling (or, if Mr. Levici requests, to simply void the company).