Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions, Inc. v. McDonald's Corp.
562 F.2d 1157 (9th Cir. 1977)

  • The Kroffts made a television show that contained people dressed up in funny costumes. McDonalds was a restaurant that ran a series of commercials containing people dressed up in funny costumes similar to the ones on the Krofft's show. The Kroffts sued for copyright infringement.
    • The Kroffts argued that the McDonald's commercials were substantially similar to their work.
    • McDonald's admitted that they got the idea from the Kroffts' but that their characters were dissimilar enough to fall outside the scope of Kroffts' copyright protection.
      • McDonald's didn't directly copy the costumes and had all different characters, but they had the same style and feel as the Kroffts' work.
  • The Trial Court found for the Kroffts. McDonald's appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court noted that you can copyright an expression, but not an idea.
      • See Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp. (45 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1930)).
    • The Court found that there were two tests that courts should apply to show if a work was substantially similar enough to be a copy of an expression, and not just of an idea.
      • The extrinsic test, which looks at specific criteria that can be listed and analyzed (type of artwork, materials used, subject matter).
        • This can be decided as a matter of law and with expert testimony.
      • The intrinsic test, which considers the impressions of the average reasonable reader or spectator.
        • This is a mater of fact and should be decided by a jury.
    • The Court applied the tests and found that while under the extrinsic test, the works were not substantially similar, McDonald's characters still invoked the same "concept and feel" as the Kroffts. Therefore it was still an infringement.
      • The Court noted that "duplication or near identity is not necessary to establish infringement."