Justices' Ruling On Inadvertent Error Excuse May Be Limited
Date: April 14, 2022
Thompson Hine partner Jesse L. Jenike-Godshalk’s article “Justices’ Ruling On Inadvertent Error Excuse May Be Limited” was published in Law360.
The article discusses Unicolors Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz LP, in which the Supreme Court construed a safe harbor provision in the Copyright Act and concluded that a copyright registration containing incorrect information is not invalid even if the inaccuracy was due to ignorance or a mistake of law. On its face, this decision appears to be at odds with the maxim that ignorance of the law is no excuse.
The court's decision might be viewed as a broad abandonment of the maxim, but a more likely conclusion is that the court decided only that the maxim does not apply in the specific context presented in the case. At the same time, the court did not resolve the circuit split that brought Unicolors before it in the first place, and lower courts may find support in the opinion for either side of that split.