By Andrew Chung
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rapper Rick Ross cannot copyright the words "Everyday I'm hustlin'," a U.S. judge has ruled, putting an end to his claim against music group LMFAO for selling T-shirts with the similar catch-phrase "Everyday I'm shufflin'."
In a ruling released on Tuesday in Miami federal court, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams said Ross's slogan, a prominent part of his 2006 debut hit "Hustlin'," is a short expression that courts have repeatedly said cannot be copyrighted.
Williams' order puts a dent in a copyright infringement lawsuit that Ross, whose real name is William Leonard Roberts II, filed against LMFAO in 2013.
Ross alleged the Los Angeles-based electropop duo, made up of Stefan Gordy and Skyler Gordy, copied "Hustlin'" for their own 2010 chart-topping "Party Rock Anthem," which contains the lyric "Everyday I'm shufflin'."
The hip hop star said LMFAO's song was "an obvious attempt to capitalize on the fame and success of Hustlin'." He also sued Kia Motors for using "Party Rock Anthem" in an advertising campaign.
In the complaint, Ross claimed LMFAO violated his copyright by selling T-shirts and other merchandise bearing the shufflin' slogan.
In her order on Tuesday, Williams said that "Hustlin'," as a song, is protected by copyright. But Ross' three-word slogan, is made up of ordinary words and cannot be copyrighted, she said. The judge compared it to other music catch-phrases from the past, such as "you got the right one, uh-huh," "holla back," and "we get it poppin'," saying it is a "short expression of the sort that courts have uniformly held uncopyrightable."
The judge did not rule on whether LMFAO's song itself was an unauthorized copy of "Hustlin'." A trial is scheduled for October.
Lawyers for Ross and LMFAO could not immediately be reached for comment.
The case is William L. Roberts, II et al. v. Stefan Kendal Gordy et al, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, No. 13-cv-24700.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Andrew Hay)