Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc.

PETITIONER: Fogerty
RESPONDENT: Fantasy, Inc.
LOCATION: U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute

DOCKET NO.: 92-1750
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 510 US 517 (1994)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1993
DECIDED: Mar 01, 1994

ADVOCATES:
Charles A. Blanchard - for Apple Computer, Inc., as amicus curiae urging affirmance
Chris R. Ottenweller - for Apple Computer, Inc., as amicus curiae urging affirmance
Jack E. Brown - for Apple Computer, Inc., as amicus curiae urging affirmance
Jonathan A. Marshall - for Hewlett-Packard Co. as amicus curiae urging reversal
Jon R. Stark - for Hewlett-Packard Co. as amicus curiae urging reversal
Kenneth I. Sidle - on behalf of the Petitioner
Lawrence S. Robbins - on behalf of the Respondent
Roland I. Griffin - for Hewlett-Packard Co. as amicus curiae urging reversal
Stephen P. Fox - for Hewlett-Packard Co. as amicus curiae urging reversal
William G. Pecau - for Hewlett-Packard Co. as amicus curiae urging reversal

Facts of the case

After successfully defending against a copyright infringement suit filed against him by Fantasy Inc. (Fantasy), John Fogerty sought to recover the cost of his attorney's fees from Fantasy. Fogerty based his claim on 17 U.S.C. section 505 which states in part that: "the court may award a reasonable attorney's fee to the prevailing party as part of the costs." On appeal from an unfavorable district court ruling, the Court of Appeals affirmed as it found that Fogerty did not demonstrate that Fantasy's original suit was frivolous or brought in bad faith. Fogerty appealed again, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Question

Do federal courts have discretion over whether or not to force a loosing party to pay all or part of the victorious party's attorney's fees?

Media for Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1993 in Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 01, 1994 in Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the Court to announce in Fogerty versus Fantasy, Inc.

This case involves a dispute over the proper standards for awarding attorney's fees to successful litigants in copyright actions.

The petitioner, Fogerty a musician, successfully defended a copyright infringement action brought against him by the respondent here and he then filed a motion for attorney's fees under the relevant provisions of the Copyright Act which provides that the court may award a reasonable attorney's fee to the prevailing party as part of the cost.

The District Court in Los Angeles denied the motion for fees and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld that ruling because under the Ninth Circuit's rule known as the dual standard, prevailing copyright defendants such as Fogerty must show that the original infringement suit was frivolous or brought in bad faith in order to receive fees.

But prevailing plaintiffs are generally awarded such fees as a matter of course.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we hold that prevailing plaintiffs and prevailing defendants must be treated alike under Section 505.

The language of the Section gives no hint of any basis of a distinction and the other arguments in favor of the dual standard, we disapprove.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is, therefore, reversed.

Justice Thomas has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.