June 5, 2014 / Tampa, Fla. — After two years of grueling litigation, a federal jury in late March found decisively in favor of the Tampa Bay stock photography business Yellow Pages Photos in a case litigated by Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP’s Intellectual Property Law Practice Group. The decision, made in the US District Court Middle District of Florida (Case # 8:12-cv-00755-RAL-EAJ) was a major triumph for Yellow Pages Photos founder and President Trent Moore, who in 2012 discovered a licensee, a much larger company, was violating its license by passing along his copyrighted photographic images to others.
Moore launched Yellow Pages Photos in 1999 and quickly found success licensing stock photography to directory publishers around the country. The company’s work appears in nearly half of all phone directories published in the United States, and it counts major corporations such as AT&T among its clients. While Moore has worked with a handful of other photographers, the majority of Yellow Pages Photos’ images were taken by him.
But in early 2012, Moore realized a Utah company named Ziplocal to which Yellow Pages Photos had licensed images was transferring them to outsourcing entities, who were in turn was using them without permission and without compensating it. One of those was Yellow Pages Group, a captive subsidiary of Canada’s largest publisher of directories. So Moore turned to Shumaker attorney J. Todd Timmerman, who had begun working with Moore on copyright protection issues in 2007. Timmerman is the Managing Partner of Shumaker’s Tampa office and serves as the Chair of the firm’s talented Intellectual Property Law Practice Group. Joining Timmerman in Moore’s defense were several members of the practice group, including attorneys Mindi M. Richter, C. Philip Campbell, Jr. and Jeffrey B. Fabian.
“This case was right in our wheelhouse,” says Timmerman. “This is what we do.”
Yellow Pages Photos filed suit on April 9, 2012 in U.S. District Court, and Moore and Shumaker spent the next two years in the trenches, fighting the case.
Moore calls the ordeal “brutal.” Since Yellow Pages Photos is a one-man company, it was up to him to comb through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents to identify which photos were his. “I spent more than 2,000 hours on this case last year,” Moore says. “It’s very hard to move forward if you’re a small business when you have to put that much time into protecting your copyrights. Being a single father with five children makes it even more difficult.”
On March 27, 2014, the jury finally returned with its verdict, declaring the two defendants’ copyright infringement to have indeed been willful, meaning the licensee and its outsourcer knowingly misused Yellow Pages Photos’ images. The jury also awarded Yellow Pages Photos nearly a quarter-million dollars in damages, an amount that is still being litigated, as is the responsibility to cover attorneys’ fees and court costs.
“When a jury takes the time that it did and comes back with not just an infringement verdict, but a willful infringement verdict, there is a sense of absolute vindication,” Moore says. “It means it’s not O.K. to do this. I’m not a billion-dollar company—I’m just a little guy, but my rights are important, too.”
“Mr. Moore’s issues started with the downturn in the economy,” Timmerman says. “Some companies just decided that they didn’t feel like paying for the use of others’ property, but that’s simply not acceptable.”
About Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP (www.slk-law.com) is a full-service business law firm with more than 225 lawyers, 55 paralegals and 475 employees in five offices: Toledo and Columbus, Ohio; Tampa and Sarasota, Fla.; and Charlotte, N.C. In each of its markets, Shumaker is the premier provider of quality legal services to individuals, small businesses, health care providers, nonprofits and Fortune 500 and international corporations.
[Photo attached: Todd Timmerman, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick]