Kelly Rucker, a self-described writer of romance novels in Houston, filed a copyright infringement complaint on April 13 in federal court in Houston against Harlequin Enterprises. In the complaint in Kelly Rucker v. Harlequin Enterprises, Limited in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Rucker alleges that she “brings this action to obtain legal and equitable relief to remedy Defendant’s infringement of Plaintiff’s exclusive rights under the Copyright Act of a literary work entitled ‘How to Love a Billionaire’ through the publication and sale of a literary work entitled, ‘The Proud Wife.’ ”
In the complaint, Rucker asserts three counts of copyright infringement, including vicarious and contributory counts. She also alleges in the complaint that a side-by-side comparison of the works shows more than 40 instances of direct copyright infringements of her protected creative expression. She seeks an injunction preventing further infringement and damages for the defendant’s profits gained from the alleged infringement.
The complaint alleges Rucker completed her novel in 2009 and submitted it to various contests, including the 2010 Spring Into Romance Contest sponsored by the Romance Writers of America-San Diego Chapter, where the work ranked as a finalist. She alleges that she has information and belief that Harlequin representatives serve as judges on various contests and therefore get access to submitted works. In 2011, the complaint alleges, Rucker was “shocked to discover” after she purchased The Proud Wife the alleged copyright infringement of her work.
Karen Louie, general counsel for Harlequin, did not return a call immediately by press time. But Steven Mandell, a partner in Chicago’s Mandell Menkes, who represents Harlequin, says his client “categorically denies the allegations.”
Paul S. Beik represents Rucker. Beik concedes, “I’m certainly no expert on romance novels.” But the lawyer, who founded the Beik Law Firm in Houston, which focuses on intellectual property litigation, says he can recognize and assert a copyright violation as he has done for his client.
-- Miriam Rozen