Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 539 U.S. 23, 15 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 23 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

mara would merely have had to argue that it was the "origin" of the designs that Wal-Mart was selling as its own line. It was not, because "origin of goods" in the Lanham Act referred to the producer of the clothes, and not the producer of the (potentially) copyrightable or patentable designs that the clothes embodied.

Similarly under respondents' theory, the "origin of goods" provision of 43(a) would have supported the suit that we rejected in Bonito Boats, 489 U. S. 141, where the defendants had used molds to duplicate the plaintiff's unpatented boat hulls (apparently without crediting the plaintiff). And it would have supported the suit we rejected in TrafFix, 532 U. S. 23: The plaintiff, whose patents on flexible road signs had expired, and who could not prevail on a trade-dress claim under 43(a) because the features of the signs were functional, would have had a reverse-passing-off claim for unattributed copying of his design.

In sum, reading the phrase "origin of goods" in the Lanham Act in accordance with the Act's common-law foundations (which were not designed to protect originality or creativity), and in light of the copyright and patent laws (which were), we conclude that the phrase refers to the producer of the tangible goods that are offered for sale, and not to the author of any idea, concept, or communication embodied in those goods. Cf. 17 U. S. C. 202 (distinguishing between a copyrighted work and "any material object in which the work is embodied"). To hold otherwise would be akin to finding that 43(a) created a species of perpetual patent and copyright, which Congress may not do. See Eldred v. Ash-croft, 537 U. S. 186, 208 (2003).

The creative talent of the sort that lay behind the Campaigns videos is not left without protection. The original film footage used in the Crusade television series could have been copyrighted, see 17 U. S. C. 102(a)(6), as was copyrighted (as a compilation) the Crusade television series, even though it included material from the public domain, see

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