Statutory Damages Awarded for Copyright Infringement Through Summary Proceedings

The Federal Court recently provided us with a decision, in Patterned Concrete Mississauga Inc. v. Bomanite Toronto Ltd. (2021 FC 314), awarding both an injunction and damages through summary proceedings rather than the more complex (and costly) type of pleadings before this court. The decision at issue stems from the alleged copying by a competitor of certain forms used to contract with customers. Faced with the apparent copying of its forms by a competitor, the plaintiff requested that the Federal Court not only enjoin such copying but also that it grant the petitioner statutory damages. Fortunately for the plaintiff, it successfully proved its employee’s creation of the original forms, coupled with the transition of a long-time employee to the defendant’s organization, which explained how the documents were likely passed between the businesses at issue. Faced with such facts, the judge accepted the plaintiff’s position that its copyrights in those works had been adequately demonstrated, as was the copying by the defendant. The judge did so in the context of summary proceedings which may allow resolution of a claim, before the Federal Court, in months rather than years, at a fraction of the cost. It seems worth mentioning that the judge did so notwithstanding an attempt by the defendant to set aside the registration certificates obtained by the plaintiff immediately prior to its filing of legal proceedings. Indeed, the judge held such certificates could be taken into consideration upon ascertaining the copyrights of a plaintiff, even in cases where they were obtained concomitantly with the filing of proceedings, especially in the absence of evidence by the defendant contradicting ownership of copyright by the plaintiff, as had been the case here. The court in this case also easily concluded that the forms at issue qualified as works protected by copyright owned by the plaintiff, notably because of testimony from the actual creator of the original forms. This allowed the court to find infringement, including by side-by-side comparison of the documents at issue, which showed clear acts of reproduction. This allowed the court to award an injunction coupled with statutory damages of $24,000, namely $8,000 for each work that had been copied. This case is part of a trend showing a growing willingness by the Federal Court to award both injunctions and damages in matters of copyright, even through summary proceedings.