Costs In A Copyright Case Can Be Collected, But They Are Limited By Statute

Copyright infringement lawsuits must be brought in federal court. These cases are often filed by lawyers who not only think their clients can score a sizable judgment, but also have the opposition cover legal fees and costs. However, a new United States Supreme Court decision places a limit on what a prevailing party can actually collect.

The highest court decided, in the case of Rimini Street, Inc. et al.  v. Oracle USA, Inc., et al., that the “full costs” that may be awarded are specifically set forth as codified by statute. There are six categories of costs that a court can award to the prevailing party, and that is it.

Prior to reaching the Supreme Court, Oracle was awarded damages based on Rimini Street infringing on many of its copyrights. The lower court also awarded fees and costs to Oracle in an amount of more than $33 million. It covered items not included within the six categories of costs permitted by statute, which became the subject for the highest court to consider.

For instance, it was improper for the lower courts to allow an award to include reimbursement of expert witness fees, e-discovery expenses and jury consultant fees. The amount of those particular costs was a whopping $12.8 million. That total was stricken from the overall award of fees and costs for falling outside the scope of the six enumerated categories of reimbursable costs. The same will be true for cases going forward, based on the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The six categories of permissible reimbursable costs (separate from attorney’s fees, which are awardable) in a copyright case are:

  1. Fees of the clerk and marshal;
  2. Fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case;
  3. Fees and disbursements for printing and witnesses;
  4. Fees for exemplification and the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in the case;
  5. Doocket fees under section 1923 of this title; and
  6. Compensation of court appointed experts, compensation of interpreters, and salaries, fees, expenses, and costs of special interpretation services under section 1828 of this title.