Supreme Court finds courts cannot award ‘full costs’ of attorney’s fees for copyright infringement
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Supreme Court finds courts cannot award ‘full costs’ of attorney’s fees for copyright infringement

The US Supreme Court ruled Monday in Rimini Street v. Oracle USA, Inc. that Oracle was not entitled to a $12.8 million award for certain litigation expenses beyond what is considered “full costs” of attorneys fees under 28 USC §§ 1821 and 1920.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit previously ruled in Oracle’s favor finding that Rimini Street had infringed on Oracle’s copyright under the Copyright Act of 1976. The question brought to the Supreme Court was whether the $12.8 million award for Oracle’s expert witness, e-discovery and jury consulting expenses were a part of the “full costs” awarded under § 505 of the Copyright Act.

The Act states that “the court in its discretion may allow the recovery of full costs by or against any party other than the United States or an officer thereof. Except as otherwise provided by this title, the court may also award a reasonable attorney’s fee to the prevailing party as part of the costs.” Rimini Street challenged the term “full costs,” and the Supreme Court looked to precedent cases and the US Code to determine its meaning.

Under § 1920, there are six categories including fee recovery for docket fees, printed and electronic transcripts, fees for the clerk marshal and includes § 1821 fees for court appointed witnesses. The Supreme Court reversed the lower courts award decisions finding that the $12.8 million award for the full costs of attorneys fees did not fall within the six categories outlined in the US Code.