Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc., No. 15-35509 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a copyright infringement action brought by renowned photographer Jacobus Rentmeester against Nike. Rentmeester alleged that Nike infringed a famous photograph he took of Michael Jordan when Nike commissioned its own photograph of Jordan and then used that photo to create the "Jumpman" logo. The panel held that, although Rentmeester plausibly alleged that he owned a valid copyright in his photo and a presumption that the Nike photo was the product of copying rather than independent creation, he failed to plausibly allege that Nike copied enough of the protected expression from his photo to establish unlawful appropriation. The panel explained that Rentmeester was entitled to protection only for the way the pose was expressed in his photograph, a product of not just the pose but also the camera angle, timing, and shutter speed he chose. In this case, Rentmeester's photo was entitled to broad rather than thin protection. Nonetheless, the panel held that the works at issue were as a matter of law not substantially similar, and thus the Jumpman logo was even less similar to Rentmeester's photo than the Nike photo itself.