Sunday, February 21, 2010

11th Cir. decision on copyrightability of blank forms

In Utopia Provider Sys., Inc. v. Plummer, No. 09-11160 (Feb. 19, 2010), the 11th Circuit addressed the test for determining the copyrightability of blank forms. At issue was a series of print and electronic forms developed for hospital emergency room treatment. The forms contained a detailed series of headings with blank spaces for a treating physician to input a patient's medical history, present symptoms, physical exam results, diagnosis and treatment decisions, and instructions. The more specific aspects of the forms were different for different problems.

The court first noted that blank forms are not copyrightable unless they convey information or original pictorial expression. Examples of non-copyrightable forms include baseball scorecards and check stubs. In contrast, diaries for "baby's first year" might be an example of a form that could be copyrightable. Because, in the court's view, the headings of the medical forms at issue did not convey any information, but simply called for the recordation of the information that any responsible physician would ask or note in such emergency room visits, the court held that the forms were not copyrightable.

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