Anatomy in Clay®

Santangelo Law Offices Joined Forces with Noted Legal Scholar David Nimmer to Support Copyright – and Win!

As the centerpiece to the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System, long-time Santangelo Law Offices client Jon Zahourek had created the MANIKEN® model as a creative expression of human form. He uses his MANIKEN® sculpture to teach anatomy by applying clay to represent muscles, organs, and tissues. Zahourek copyrighted his MANIKEN® model as a work of visual art.

The MANIKEN® model proved to be very popular.  So much so that a Pilates training company used it for its own benefit in ways that were not permitted, damaging the integrity of both Zahourek’s art and the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System. To protect both, Zahourek sued that company for copyright infringement. Desperately fighting back, the Pilates company sought to destroy the copyright suggesting the MANIKEN® was nothing but a useful article, rendering it unprotectable by copyright.

But Zahourek wasn’t finished. SLO attorneys Luke Santangelo and Nicole Ressue teamed with David Nimmer to take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Nimmer is the namesake of “Nimmer on Copyright,” the renowned legal treatise on U.S. copyright law that is widely cited in American courts and has been influential for decades as the leading treatise on American copyright law. “It was such an honor to work with David Nimmer and his comprehensive understanding of copyright law,” Nicole Ressue said.

The approach worked! In a ruling, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court and determined that uses for learning did not immediately trip the sculpture into being nothing but a useful article. In the words of the Tenth Circuit, the district court decision “misfit” the proper definition of useful article under copyright law.

The Court reasoned that the educational uses of the MANIKEN® sculpture did not immediately make the sculpture a useful article and that an item is not a useful article when its usefulness derives solely from its appearance.  Thus, Zahourek’s MANIKEN® can be the subject of copyright protection.

In accordance with law, the case has been remanded back for further proceedings.

Luke Santangelo commented about their desire to pursue this case. “What we do is protect creative people, because I respect that creativity and advocating for intellectual property rights is what promotes others’ creativity.”

Listen to Luke Santangelo’s podcast interview on this ruling:

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