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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In 1981, Ronald Pound was hired by Pritchett LP, a business consulting firm founded by E. Price Pritchett. The employment contract governing Ronald Pound’s employment provided that he was responsible for, inter alia, “completing regular written assignments and the development of new products and procedures.” In addition, the contract stated that “[s]hould the Employee produce any written materials in the course of his work with the Employer, then such shall be done for and on behalf of the Employer and all work produced shall be the exclusive property of the Employer.” Ronald Pound was paid a salary plus a discretionary bonus, which reached $1 million the last year he worked with the company. In the late 1980s, Pritchett LP began offering a line of handbooks to supplement its consulting services. Price Pritchett and Ronald Pound co-wrote two such books, “Business as UnUsual” and “Smart Moves,” in 1988 and 1989, respectively. Pritchett L.P. paid all expenses associated with writing, publishing, marketing and promoting both books and all revenues from sales of the books went directly to the company. No company employees involved in the co-writing of handbooks received royalties or other payments from the profits or proceeds of handbooks sales. Pritchett LP applied to register copyrights in the two books with the U.S. Copyright Office. The administrative staff member who completed the forms listed Price Pritchett and Ronald Pound as the books’ authors and checked “NO” when designating whether the books were “works made for hire.” With regard to “Business as UnUsual,” the certificate lists Price Pritchett and Ronald Pound as copyright claimants. A staff member signed the certificate for Price Pritchett, while Ronald Pound signed on his own behalf. The registration became effective in March 1988. With respect to “Smart Moves,” Ronald Pound is not listed as a copyright claimant and his signature does not appear on the form. The registration became effective in December 1989. In 1990, Pritchett LP attempted to correct the copyright information, but submitted the wrong forms to the copyright office. In 2002, after this dispute arose, the proper forms were submitted. Supplemental registrations effective in October 2002 reflect that the books were works made for hire and that Pritchett LP owns the copyrights. In 1995, Ronald Pound died. Pritchett made numerous concessions to Ronald’s widow Nancy, including payment of Ronald’s full $1 million bonus for 1995, though he had worked only during the first quarter. Nancy Pound signed a release discharging Pritchett LP from all claims, agreements or expenses that she might have against the company. In 2002, Nancy Pound sued Pritchett in state court, alleging co-ownership in the books’ copyrights and seeking an accounting and royalties from the books’ sales. Pritchett removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, but it was remanded, apparently based on Pound’s representation that there was no ownership dispute and therefore no federal question. Pritchett then filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, seeking declaratory judgment that it was the sole owner of the copyrights in the two books. Pound counterclaimed in the Eastern District for an accounting and payment of royalties. On Pritchett’s motion, the district court granted summary judgment and awarded Pritchett attorney fees. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court agreed with the district judge that Pritchett was the sole owner of the books. The employment agreement governing Pound’s employment with Pritchett, the court stated, specifically provided that all written materials created by Pound in his employment were to be exclusive property of the employer. While the registration form, if standing alone, would be evidence of joint ownership, it is not a written agreement changing the employment relationship that the statute requires, the court stated. The ownership of the copyrights by Pritchett defeats Pound’s claim for royalties and moots the limitations bar to Pound’s claim, the court held. In addition, the court held that the declaratory judgment action initiated by Pritchett is not barred by limitations. Pritchett’s potential claim did not accrue until the Pound estate first asserted accounting claims in 2002, the court stated. Pritchett’s work-for-hire “claim” was asserted in 2003, thus within the statute of limitations, the court found. Because Pritchett is the prevailing party, the attorney fee award is warranted, the court further held. OPINION:Jones, C.J., and Reavley and Prado, J.J.

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