British photographer files copyright complaint against California bike shop

GARDEN CITY, NY (BRAIN) – A UK-based professional photographer has filed a lawsuit against California-based Summit Bicycles, claiming that the photo of an electric bike on Summit’s website is his protected intellectual property. by copyright and is used inappropriately.

The lawsuit includes a screenshot that allegedly shows the photographer’s photo of a Brompton folding bike on Summit’s e-commerce site. The costume also includes a link to the page. On Monday, the same page included a photo of another Brompton model (see photo at the bottom of this article).

When contacted by BRAIN on Tuesday, Summit Bicycles CEO Ian Christie said he was unaware of the lawsuit until BRAIN told him about it and said he never received a cease and desist notice from Thorn or the law firm. Subsequently, he forwarded an email to BRAIN that he had sent to the plaintiff’s attorney.

“As I imagine you know, a cease and desist would be standard practice in this case as a first step,” Christie wrote to the law firm. “It would also have informed you that these photos were taken by us. Summit Bicycles. In our store in Palo Alto specifically. Against one of the exterior walls of the building. You can see our store via Google for reference.

“I have copied my Managing Director and General Counsel. I hope that, given the above information, you will withdraw your complaint. I am sure your client wishes to avoid any counter suit, money, time and other resources to fight frivolous lawsuits.”

The photographer, Robin Thorn – the director of Thorn Cycles Ltd. in Bridgwater, England – told BRAIN that he uses a web service, Copytrack, to monitor his company’s image usage. He told BRAIN he signed up for the service because his company employs two full-time photographers and has uncovered “thousands” of instances where their photos have been used without permission.

Exhibit 2: A screenshot of Summit's website from the complaint.

“We’ve used (Copytrack) with great success and we leave all the legal stuff to them,” Thorn said. “I cannot comment on this particular case as I imagine it is still ongoing, but in general I would expect Copytrack not to pursue claims (i.e. not not send such cease and desist notices) after sending an out-of-court message – license offer because they only receive money if an offer or claim is successful.”

The Sanders Law Group of Garden City, Calif., filed the lawsuit this week on Thorn’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The complaint seeks a jury trial to recover profits attributable to the publication of the photo, court costs and any other relief recommended by the court.

The lawsuit claims Thorn took the photo in question on Nov. 1, 2017, of a Brompton H6R folding bike. Thorn applied to the US Copyright Office to register the photo in 2019, and it was officially registered on July 11, 2019. On December 18, 2018, Thorn said he saw the photo posted on the Summit Bicycles website without his permission. The lawsuit accuses the photo of having been copied, stored and displayed without license or permission and of harming Thorn’s potential market for the photo.

Summit Bicycles has five locations, in Burlingame, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Santa Clara and San Jose.

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