The Court of Appeals for Indiana Dismisses Counterfeiting, Theft and Corrupt Business Criminal Charges Based On Alleged Trademark Infringement Suit Involving Sale of Toy Guns.

Indianapolis, IN – Chief Judge ROBB of the Court of Appeals for Indiana Indiana Court of Appeals.jpghas issued an opinion regarding An-Hung Yao and Yu-Ting Lin Houston, Texas; who were charged with counterfeiting, theft, and corrupt business influence Huntington County, Indiana Circuit Court based upon the sale of toy guns that allegedly infringement federally registered trademarks.

Defendant Lin operates a business in Houston, Texas called Generation Guns, which imports toy guns from Taiwan and sells the toy guns to the public, including the GA-112 Airsoft gun. Defendant Yao is the vice-president of a Houston bank and is a friend of Lin who allegedly occasionally helps Lin with the Generation Guns business. In 2009, firearms manufacturer Heckler & Koch engaged Continental Enterprises of Indianapolis, to investigate possible trademark infringement claims of H&K’s federally registered trademarks. Continental Enterprises placed orders with Generation Guns for several guns that it believed to infringe H&K’s trademarks and had the products delivered to addresses in Huntington County, Indiana. Continental Enterprises then filed a report with the Indiana State Police. The prosecuting attorney in Huntington County then charged Lin and Yao each with three counts of counterfeiting, three counts of theft, and one count of corrupt business influence “based upon the similarities between the GA-112 airsoft guns and H&K’s firearm.”

The defendants had filed a motion to dismiss in the trial court arguing that the court did not have jurisdiction since all the alleged act occurred in Texas and also argued that the toy gun was not a “written instrument” for the purposes of the counterfeiting crime. The trial court found that it did have jurisdiction, but dismissed the counterfeiting claim, finding that toy was not a “written instrument.” In this interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and held that the trial court should have dismissed the case since Indiana did not have territorial jurisdiction. The court looked to Indiana Code 35-41-1-1(b), which states that Indiana has jurisdiction if conduct or a result that is an element of the crime occurred in Indiana. The court noted that jurisdiction in a criminal case is a factual issue for the jury to determine. However, the court noted that there was no factual dispute about whether the acts occurred in Texas, and therefore, the case should have been dismissed as a matter of law. The court did not address the claim that the toy gun was not a written instrument.

Practice Tip: This case is interesting to Indiana intellectual property attorneys for a number of reasons. First, it involves Continental Enterprises, a frequent litigant in Indiana intellectual property lawsuit. Indiana Intellectual Property Law News has previously blogged about Continental Enterprises cases here.

Secondly, this case addresses the unique issue of territorial jurisdiction for criminal actions. In this case the court looked to Indiana Code 35-41-1-1(b), which states that Indiana has jurisdiction if conduct or a result that is an element of the crime occurred in Indiana. The court noted that jurisdiction in a criminal case is a factual issue for the jury to determine. However, the court noted that there was no factual dispute about whether the acts occurred in Texas, and therefore, the case should have been dismissed as a matter of law. This is a different standard than Indiana courts’ personal jurisdiction for purposes of civil liability.

Finally, the Court of Appeals decided that the trial court did not have jurisdiction, there by evading the issues of how a “product” like a toy gun, can be a “written instrument” for purposes of counterfeiting criminal offense. Another recent Court of Appeals opinion addressed the definition of a written instrument.

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