Supreme Court Holds “Full Costs” in Copyright Statute Does Not Mean “All Costs” – Oracle Rimini Street Lawsuit

After being awarded damages for copyright infringement by a jury, Oracle was awarded $12.8 million dollars for litigation expenses…

Supreme Court Holds “Full Costs” in Copyright Statute Does Not Mean “All Costs” - Oracle Rimini Street Lawsuit

Supreme Court Holds “Full Costs” in Copyright Statute Does Not Mean “All Costs” - Oracle Rimini Street Lawsuit

Author: Nick Valenti
March 4, 2019

After being awarded damages for copyright infringement by a jury, Oracle was awarded $12.8 million dollars for litigation expenses such as expert witnesses, e-discovery, and jury consulting by the District Court. Defendant Remini Street appealed the award of $12.8 million dollars in expenses. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the award, and Rimini Street appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ decisions holding that their expansive definition of “full costs” was erroneous.

The District Court awarded Oracle its fees pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505. That statute provides that a court may in its discretion award “full costs” to a party in a copyright infringement case but does not otherwise define the term “costs.” In reversing the lower courts’ decisions, the Supreme Court held that 28 U.S.C. § 1821 and § 1920 define what the term “costs” encompasses in subject-specific federal statutes that provide for an award of costs, such as Section 505. The Supreme Court further held that the word “full” in “full costs” simply means all those costs defined in Sections 1821 and 1920 but does not otherwise expand the definition of “costs.” The Supreme Court also rejected Oracle’s argument that the term “full costs” in the Copyright Act had a historical meaning that was more expansive than those costs identified in Sections 1821 and 1920.

The ruling is likely to significantly reduce the award of fees to Oracle because the costs specified in Sections 1821 and 1920 are limited and exclude many of the costs that were awarded by the District Court. Further, the Supreme Court’s opinion suggests that an award of costs pursuant to a cost statute is generally limited to those costs specified in Sections 1821 and 1920. The decision reduces litigant’s exposure to cost awards at the conclusion of a case.

 

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