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Bubble Pony, Inc. v. Facepunch Studios Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 14, 2017

Bubble Pony, Inc., a Minnesota Corporation and Patrick J. Glynn, Plaintiffs,
Facepunch Studios Ltd., Facepunch Limited, Facepunch Group Limited, and Garry Newman, Defendants.

          Brittany N. Resch, Esq., Daniel E. Gustafson, Esq., Daniel C. Hedlund, Esq., and Michelle J. Looby, Esq. and Gustafson Glueck PLLC, and Stuart M. Paynter, Esq., Jennifer Murray, Esq., Sara Willingham, Esq., and Celeste H.G. Boyd, Esq. and The Paynter Law Firm, PLLC, counsel for plaintiffs.

          Todd A. Wind, Esq. and Pamela Abbate-Dattilo, Esq. and Fredrikson & Byron, PA, and Erin Jones, Esq. and Ryan Tyz, Esq. and Tyz Law Group PC, counsel for defendants.


          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter is before the court upon the motion for partial summary judgment by plaintiffs Bubble Pony, Inc. and Patrick J. Glynn. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the motion is granted.


         The allegations at the center of this business dispute were set forth in the court's previous order on defendants' motion to dismiss. See ECF No. 40. Because discovery in this case is still ongoing, the court will recite only those facts necessary to resolve this motion.

         Defendant Facepunch is an English company, majority owned by defendant Garry Newman. In September 2010, Newman hired Glynn as a computer programmer for video games produced by Facepunch. Tyz Decl. Ex. 1. In June 2012, Glynn began work on a video game entitled “RUST.” Am. Compl. ¶ 28. The parties dispute to what degree Glynn was supervised and how much of his contribution was original. See id. ¶¶ 28-34; Tyz Decl. Exs. 5, 6; Berry Dep. at 219.

         In June 2013, Facepunch released a limited version of RUST and officially offered RUST for sale in August. In December, Facepunch released RUST more widely on “Steam, ” a gaming platform. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 33, 53. Glynn received over $700, 000 in payment for his work on RUST.[1] Tyz Decl. Ex. 12 at 2.

         In May 2014, Facepunch fired Glynn purportedly due to his unnecessarily complex coding and poor performance. See Tyz Decl. Exs. 6, 8, 10. On January 22, 2015, Glynn registered the June 2013 version of RUST as a joint work with Facepunch and filed an application to register the August 2013 version.[2] Am. Compl. ¶ 59. Based on this copyright and his alleged original contributions, Glynn claims that he is a joint author of RUST and that defendants owe him an accounting of the profits made from RUST. Id. ¶¶ 282-288.

         On March 12, 2015, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint alleging a variety of contract, tort, and equitable claims against Facepunch and Newman. On December 7, 2015, the court dismissed most of plaintiffs' claims except those for tortious interference with prospective economic advantage; unjust enrichment; accounting; and declaratory judgment of joint authorship. Defendants assert the affirmative defenses, among others, of implied license, acquiescence, and assignment. Plaintiffs now move for partial summary judgment as to those affirmative defenses.


         I. Standard of Review

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material only when its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. See id. at 252 (“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient ....”). On a motion for summary judgment, the court views all evidence and inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 255. The nonmoving party, however, may not rest upon mere denials or allegations in the pleadings but must set forth specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. A party asserting that a genuine dispute exists - or cannot exist - about a material fact must cite “particular parts of materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). If a plaintiff cannot support each essential element of a claim, the court must grant summary judgment because a complete failure of proof regarding an essential element necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.

         II. Affirmative Defenses ...

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