9th Circuit Upholds Dismissal Of California “Sonic” Copyright Action

sonicThe 9th Circuit federal court of appeals has upheld dismissal of a California lawsuit for copyright infringement against Sega of America, Inc. and Electronic Arts, Inc., citing and deferring to an earlier-filed New York action involving the same parties and issues.

The California Plaintiff had generally alleged that Defendants infringed his copyrights in and to certain of Plaintiff’s alleged “Sonic the Hedgehog” creations.  Nearly a year prior to Plaintiff’s lawsuit, litigation had been commenced in New York  generally challenging the validity of Plaintiff’s copyright claims at issue in the California action.

Applying the “first-to-file” rule (permitting a federal court to decline jurisdiction over a case as a matter of efficiency when a complaint involving the same parties and issues has already been filed in a different district), the trial court dismissed the California action.  The 9th Circuit found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision to decline jurisdiction, and to dismiss rather than stay the litigation.