Articles Posted in Jurisdiction and Venue

Indianapolis, Indiana – Attorney and Photographer Richard N. Bell of McCordsville, Indiana filed suit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Defendant, Halcyon Business Publications, Inc., of New York infringed his “Indianapolis Photo” which has been registered with the United States Copyright Office as Registration No. VA0001785115. After review of the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction which was filed on December 29, 2017 the court granted the Motion to Dismiss on May 24, 2018.

Bell, who has brought many similar lawsuits for infringement of his Indianapolis Photo, initially filed this case on November 29, 2017 alleging violations of the Lanham Act and copyright infringement. Halcyon claimed that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over the company as they do not maintain any offices in the state, have no employees in the state, and have no assets in the state of Indiana. They did admHalcyon-BlogPhoto-300x66it that they hired one Indiana resident as an independent contractor to write for their publication, but that contractor did not write the article that utilized the Indianapolis Photo. Further, the total amounts of advertising sold to Indiana companies by Halcyon amounted to 3.26% and 4.55% in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and Indiana subscribers to the publication comprised less than 3% of their total subscribers.

Here, the Court must only look at whether the personal jurisdiction is consistent with the Federal Due Process Clause as Indiana’s long-arm statute is analyzed under this issue. For this, a defendant must have “minimum contacts” with the forum state and purposefully avail themselves “of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum [s]tate, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.” Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Super. Ct. of Cal., 480 U.S. 102, 109 (1987). This allows a defendant to reasonably anticipate being brought into a forum in a foreign jurisdiction.

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Fort Wayne, Indiana – Attorneys for Plaintiff, Vera Bradley Designs, Inc., of Roanoke, Indiana filed suit in theDenny-BlogPhoto-300x64 Northern District of Indiana alleging that Defendant, Austin Devin 2 Denny Boys, LLC,  infringed multiple trademarks of the Plaintiff. Overhauser Law Offices, LLC represented the Defendant Austin Devin 2 Denny Boys LLC and Darlene Nicholas, who filed a Motion to Dismiss for improper venue and prevailed on July 30, 2018.

Plaintiff currently holds more than 900 copyright registrations, 35 federal trademark registrations, and has 17 pending federal trademark applications. The Plaintiff alleged in its complaint that the Defendants operate eBay accounts that they use to sell counterfeit Vera Bradley items and these acts infringe Vera Bradley’s trademarks and copyrights. All Defendants were sent cease and desist letters on behalf of the Plaintiff via counsel on July 26, 2017. On August 1, 2017, all Defendants party to the Motion to Dismiss responded through counsel and agreed to stop selling the counterfeit items, however, the Plaintiff alleged they did not cease their activities and filed suit.

The Defendants moved to dismiss Vera Bradley’s Complaint and claimed that because a substantial part of the events leading to the Plaintiff’s claims did not occur in the Northern District of Indiana, venue was improper. Further, Defendant Nicholas, claimed that the Court did not have personal jurisdiction over her. The Plaintiff countered that there were five specific instances in which the counterfeit merchandise was purchased by its employees within the Northern District of Indiana from the Defendants. They also claimed that venue was proper because they suffered harm in the District. As to Defendant Nicholas, the Court held that the Plaintiff did not give any persuasive argument as to how the Northern or Southern District Courts of Indiana could have general or specific personal jurisdiction over her in this case as she resides in Florida. Therefore, the Court was unable to transfer the case to the Southern District of Indiana, which may have been a proper venue for the other Defendants involved.

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Fort Wayne, Indiana – The Northern District of Indiana has denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss for improper venue, citing the connection of the Northern District to the events underlying the litigation.

This Indiana trademark litigation, Family Express Corp. v. Square Donuts, Inc., was filed to resolve a dispute over the use of the words “Square Donuts” in connection with the sale of donuts by two different Indiana-based companies.

Defendant Square Donuts of Terre Haute, Indiana claims trademark rights to “Square Donuts” under federal and Indiana law. It currently sells its “Square Donuts” in bakeries located in southern and central Indiana, including locations in Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Richmond.

Plaintiff Family Express of Valparaiso, Indiana operates convenience stores in northern Indiana and uses the term “Square Donuts” in conjunction with doughnut sales. Plaintiff states that both it and Defendant are expanding their respective businesses into new markets, with Defendant expanding to the north while Plaintiff expands to the south. Thus, territory in which both operate concurrently has become a possibility.

In 2006, Defendant sent a cease-and-desist letter to Plaintiff. Plaintiff and Defendant subsequently discussed the possibility of entering into a co-existence arrangement, but did reach an agreement.

This trademark lawsuit followed. Plaintiff asks the Indiana federal court to declare that its use of the term does not infringe on the trademark rights in “Square Donuts” asserted by Defendant. Plaintiff also asks the court to cancel Defendant’s existing Indiana and federal “Square Donuts” trademarks.

Trademark litigators for Defendant asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that it had been filed in an improper venue. In evaluating whether venue in the Northern District was permissible, the court first noted that, while it “must resolve all factual disputes and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor,” Plaintiff then bears the burden of establishing that venue is proper. It also noted that venue can be proper in more than one district.

The federal venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), provides that venue can exist in “(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants reside [in the same state]” or “(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of the property that is the subject of the action is situated.”

Plaintiff relied on subsection (b)(2), claiming that a substantial part of the events giving rise to the lawsuit took place in the Northern District of Indiana. To establish venue, Plaintiff pointed to the fact that Defendant’s cease-and-desist letter and other communications had been relayed to Plaintiff in the Northern District. At least some rulings by districts courts located within the Seventh Circuit have held that the requirements for venue “may be satisfied by a communication transmitted to or from the district in which the cause of action was filed, given a sufficient relationship between the communication and the cause of action.”

The Northern District of Indiana concluded that such communications, which would be a typical element of litigation under the Declaratory Judgment Act, would defeat the purpose of protecting a defendant from having to litigate “in the plaintiff’s home forum, without regard to the inconvenience to the defendant at having to defend an action in that forum or whether the defendant has engaged in substantial activities in that forum.”

Instead, the Indiana court considered the underlying substance of the dispute: “whether the Defendant’s Square Donuts trademark is valid and, if it is, whether the Plaintiff nevertheless has refrained from infringing on the trademark in connection with the sale of its Square Donuts.” The court concluded that, given the extent to which the claims and events at issue in the litigation took place in both the Northern and the Southern District of Indiana, venue was not improper in the Northern District of Indiana.

Practice Tip #1: If neither subsection (b)(1) nor (b)(2) of 28 U.S.C. § 1391 applies, a third subsection may be utilized. That subsection, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(3), permits venue in “any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.”

Practice Tip #2: An inquiry into proper venue for a lawsuit is different from one into personal jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction “goes to the court’s power to exercise control over a party,” while venue is “primarily a matter of choosing a convenient forum.”

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson dismissed a lawsuit by Indiana copyright attorney and professional photographer Richard Bell against Defendant Find Tickets, LLC of Alpharetta, Georgia for lack of personal jurisdiction.

In June 2015, Bell sued Find Tickets in the Southern District of Indiana asserting copyright infringement. He stated that the Georgia-based company had published a copyrighted photo on its website, www.findticketsfast.com, without his permission. The photo in question was one that Bell had taken of the downtown Indianapolis skyline. It had been registered by the U.S. Copyright Office under Registration No. VA0001785115.

On behalf of Find Tickets, a copyright lawyer asked the court to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, averring that Find Tickets “does not maintain any offices in Indiana, has no employees in Indiana, holds no assets in Indiana, pays no taxes to the state of Indiana, and has no bank or other financial institution accounts in Indiana.” It was further stated that the business was owned by two Georgia residents, neither of whom had ever set foot in Indiana.

The court turned to a constitutional analysis of the due process requirements for personal jurisdiction, as elucidated by the Seventh Circuit in Advanced Tactical Ordnance Sys., LLC v. Real Action Paintball, Inc., 751 F.3d 796, 800-01 (7th Cir. 2014). Citing that appellate case, the district court stated:

Due process is satisfied so long as the defendant had “certain minimum contacts” with the forum state such that the “maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” The relevant contacts are those that center on the relations among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation. However, “[f]or a State to exercise jurisdiction consistent with due process, the defendant’s suit-related conduct must create a substantial connection with the forum State.” Thus, the relation between the defendant and the forum “must arise out of contacts that the ‘defendant himself‘ creates with the forum . . . .” Moreover, although no special test exists for internet-based cases, the Court focuses on whether the defendant has purposely exploited the Indiana market beyond the availability of the website in the forum state. (Citations omitted).

The district court was unpersuaded by Bell’s arguments, opining that the Seventh Circuit precedent set forth in Advanced Tactical “established that a defendant who ‘maintains a website that is accessible to Indiana residents should not be haled into court simply because the defendant owns or operates a website that is accessible in the forum state, even if it is ‘interactive.'”

The court similarly held that, as with Advanced Tactical, Defendant’s sales to residents of the forum state were insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction as it had not been demonstrated that such sales were related to the lawsuit.

Finding no personal jurisdiction over Defendant, the court dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice.

Practice Tip: Overhauser Law Offices, publisher of this blog, represented Defendants Real Action Paintball, Inc. and its president in the appeal to the Seventh Circuit.

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Hammond, Indiana – Trademark litigation commenced in the Western District of Michigan in 2013 was transferred to the Northern District of Indiana yesterday.

This federal lawsuit, filed by trademark attorneys for Plaintiffs Texas Roadhouse, Inc. and Texas Roadhouse Delaware LLC, both of Louisville, Kentucky, alleges infringement of U.S. Service Mark Reg. No. 1,833,533, U.S. Service Mark Reg. No. 2,231,309, and U.S. Service Mark Reg. No. 2,250,966. These marks have been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The Defendants listed in the Michigan complaint were Texas Corral Restaurants, Inc.; Switzer Properties, LLC; Texcor, Inc.; Texas Corral Restaurant II, Inc.; T.C. of Michigan City, Inc.; T.C. of Kalamazoo, Inc.; Chicago Roadhouse Concepts, LLC; Paul Switzer; Victor Spina; and John Doe Corp. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, transfer venue, with the Michigan court, which was granted. The lawsuit will continue in the Northern District of Indiana.

Plaintiffs, via their trademark lawyers, asserted the following claims:

• Count I: Trade Dress Infringement
• Count II: Federal Trademark Infringement
• Count III: Trademark Infringement Under Michigan Statutory Law
• Count IV: Trademark Infringement Under Indiana Statutory Law
• Count V: Trademark Infringement Under Common Law
• Count VI: Copyright Infringement

• Count VII: Unfair Competition Under Michigan and Indiana Common Law

Texas Roadhouse seeks equitable relief; damages, including punitive damages; costs and attorney fees.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – In the matter of Bell v. Find Tickets, LLC, the Southern District of Indiana quashed overbroad discovery requests and limited inquiries to those pertaining to the matter of personal jurisdiction.

Plaintiff Richard Bell of McCordsville, Indiana photographed the Indianapolis skyline in 2000 and copyrighted the work. In this copyright lawsuit, Bell, acting as his own copyright attorney, alleges that Defendant Find Tickets of Alpharetta, Georgia published the photo on a website without Bell’s permission.

As part of the litigation, Bell propounded multiple interrogatories to Defendant. Defendant asked the court to quash this discovery, characterizing it as “far exceed[ing] the scope of a reasonable jurisdictional inquiry.” Defendant also asked for a protective order prohibiting Bell from deposing Find Tickets’ officers.

Writing for the court, Magistrate Judge Mark Dinsmore noted that Defendant’s own affidavit had estimated that “less than 1% of Find Tickets [sic] income is from Indiana related sales.” Consequently, the court concluded that, while personal jurisdiction might eventually be found to be lacking, this small amount of business was sufficient as the required “colorable showing” that jurisdiction over Defendant might exist. Consequently, the court ruled that jurisdictional discovery would be permitted.

However, the court also found that the interrogatories that had been served had been too broad for the limited question of establishing whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Defendant was proper. Judge Dinsmore ordered that the interrogatories be limited to inquiries that would support that “Defendant had extensive and pervasive contact with Indiana (general jurisdiction) or that Defendant ‘purposely availed’ itself of the privilege of conducting business in Indiana and the alleged copyright infringement arose from Defendant’s conducting business in Indiana (specific jurisdiction).” The court revised Plaintiff Bell’s interrogatories to limit them to the relevant jurisdictional matters, pending a ruling on Defendant’s separate motion to dismiss, and ordered that Defendant respond by December 1, 2015.

Defendant’s motion to quash the deposition of the owner of Find Tickets was also granted as the court found that such a deposition was unnecessary under the circumstances.

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Hammond, Indiana – Trademark and patent attorneys for Simpson Performance Products, Inc. of Mooresville, North Carolina (“Simpson”) and SFI Foundation, Inc. of Poway, California (“SFI”) commenced trademark litigation in the Western District of North Carolina alleging that Robert Wagoner of North Judson, Indiana and Derek Randall Cathcart of Valparaiso, Indiana infringed the SIMPSON® family of trademarks, some of which have been registered by the U.S. Trademark Office. The case was transferred to the Northern District of Indiana. Among the trademarks at issue are U.S. Trademark Registration Nos. 4,117,821; 1,243,427; 3,026,333; 3,026,334; and 3,050,920. Also at issue are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,931,669 and 8,272,074.

Plaintiff Simpson is a manufacturer of automotive and motorsports specialty/performance products, including head and neck restraints for competitive racing. The Simpson brand of automotive and motorsports products has existed 1959. Plaintiff SFI was established to develop and administer minimum performance standards for the automotive aftermarket and motorsports industries, including standards for specialty/performance racing equipment.

Simpson offers for sale the SIMPSON® Hybrid PRO Rage™ head and neck restraint. Simpson indicates that this product is one of the few such devices to be certified under a special classification, SFI SPEC 38.1, for use in NASCAR competitions.

Defendants Wagoner and Carthcart have been accused of engaging in the business of providing specialty/performance racing equipment, including head and neck restraints that are counterfeit versions of Simpson products. Plaintiffs contend that Wagoner is offering counterfeit head and neck restraints through ebay.com. Plaintiffs allege that Cathcart offers counterfeit head and neck restraints via the website racingjunk.com.

These restraints, Plaintiffs contend, bear trademarks owned by Simpson, including the SIMPSON® federally registered trademark as well as the HUTCHENS Hybrid PRO™ and Hybrid PRO™ common law trademarks.

The accused products also allegedly bear a label that falsely states, “This product designed & manufactured by Safety Solutions, Inc. PATENT NO.: 6931669; other patents pending.” According to Plaintiffs, the alleged counterfeiting activities of Defendants also constitute patent infringement.

In this lawsuit, filed by patent and trademark lawyers for Plaintiffs, the following causes of action are listed:

• Trademark Infringement
• Unfair Competition under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a); False Designation of Origin; False or Misleading Advertising
• Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices under N.C. [North Carolina] Gen. Stat. § 75-1.1
• Patent Infringment [sic]

• Common Law Fraud

Plaintiffs ask for a finding in their favor on each of the counts alleged, including a finding that the conduct was knowing and willful, and entry against each Defendant jointly and severally. Plaintiffs seek costs, attorneys’ fees and damages, including enhanced damages, as well as injunctive relief.

This federal trademark complaint was initially filed in the Western District of North Carolina in February 2015. In May 2015, District Judge Richard Voorhees ordered it to be transferred to the Northern District of Indiana, finding that the North Carolina court lacked personal jurisdiction over Defendants.

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A computer programmer for the Mega copyright piracy conspiracy, Andrus Nomm, 36, of Estonia, pleaded guilty recently in connection with his involvement with Megaupload.com and associated piracy websites. He was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for conspiring to commit felony copyright infringement.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement. U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady of the Eastern District of Virginia accepted the guilty plea and imposed the sentence.

“This conviction is a significant step forward in the largest criminal copyright case in U.S. history,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “The Mega conspirators are charged with massive worldwide online piracy of movies, music and other copyrighted U.S. works. We intend to see to it that all those responsible are held accountable for illegally enriching themselves by stealing the creative work of U.S. artists and creators.”

Indianapolis, Indiana – Texas defamation and franchise attorneys for Property Damage 

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Appraisers (“PDA”), in conjunction with Indiana co-counsel, sued alleging that John Mosley (“Mosley”), owner of the Clinton Body Shop, Inc. of Clinton, Mississippi, committed unfair competition under the Lanham Act by falsely representing the nature of an estimate made by one of PDA’s franchisees. Various state-law claims have also been pled to the court. This unfair competition lawsuit was initially filed in Indiana state court. It was removed from the Marion County Superior Court to the Southern District of Indiana by Indiana intellectual property attorneys for Defendants.

Plaintiff PDA is a national franchisor with a network of approximately 185 independent franchisees that are in the business of performing inspections on vehicles and other property. It has been in business for over 50 years. Defendant Mosley is the owner of the Clinton Body Shop. Clinton Body Shop advertises itself as a one-stop, full-service shop for automobile services.

Mosley is accused of inducing a PDA franchisee, John Larry Gentry, into providing a nonconforming auto-services estimate on PDA letterhead. PDA contends that Gentry was told that this estimate was only for comparison purposes and that it would be provided only to the Mississippi Attorney General’s office.

PDA claims that, instead, Mosley subsequently e-mailed this estimate to the Indiana Auto Body Association. PDA also asserts that Mosley mischaracterized the contents of, and process involved in writing, the estimate. According to the complaint, Mosley also delivered this nonconforming estimate to “other body shops around the country, making the same misrepresentations.”

In its complaint, filed by Texas defamation and franchise lawyers for PDA, in conjunction with Indiana co-counsel, the following counts are listed:

• Count I: Federal Unfair Competition (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a))
• Count II: State Unfair Competition
• Count III: Defamation
• Count IV: Tortious Interference with Business Relationships

PDA asks the court for damages, including exemplary damages; interest; attorneys’ fees, expenses and costs; and a permanent injunction.

Practice Tip: The vast majority of Indiana intellectual property litigation takes place in federal court, as the intellectual property causes of action that are most often litigated creations of federal statutory law. Thus, they may be heard in federal court under federal-question jurisdiction. However, some intellectual property lawsuits – for example, litigation involving a trademark that is registered only with the state of Indiana and used solely within Indiana’s boundaries – may occur in Indiana state court.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – In the matter of American Petroleum Institute v. Bullseye Automotive Products, et al., Indiana trademark litigators Paul B. Overhauser and John M. Bradshaw of Overhauser Law Offices, attorneys for Carlos Silva, petitioned the court to dismiss Silva for lack of personal jurisdiction. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted the motion to dismiss.

In July 2013, Indiana trademark attorneys for American Petroleum Institute (“API”) of Washington, D.C. sued in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Bullseye Automotive Products Inc. and Bullseye Lubricants Inc., both of Chicago, Illinois (collectively, “Bullseye”), and Carlos Silva of Chicago Ridge, Illinois infringed registered API “Starburst” and “Donut” trademarks, Registration Nos. 1864428, 1868779, and 1872999.

The Bullseye entities are Illinois corporations that bottle and sell motor oil. Defendant Silva is the sole incorporator and shareholder of the Bullseye entities. Plaintiff API is a trade association for the petroleum and natural-gas industry.

API brought various claims against Bullseye and Silva as an individual, including trademark infringement and trademark dilution. It claimed that Bullseye’s labeling infringed on its “Starburst” and “Donut” certification marks. While Bullseye did not contest jurisdiction in Indiana, trademark lawyers for Silva asked the court to dismiss the claims against him for lack of personal jurisdiction.

API countered that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Silva in Indiana was proper, contending that Silva personally directed the allegedly infringing activities, that he exercised complete control over Bullseye and that he and Bullseye were essentially the same entity for jurisdictional purposes. API made no argument that Silva personally had sufficient contacts with Indiana to permit an Indiana court to exercise personal jurisdiction.

The court rejected API’s “alter-ego” theory of personal jurisdiction, stating that this argument pertained to liability, not jurisdiction. Even if the court determined that Silva were the alter ego of Bullseye, a finding that the court explicitly declined to make, such potential for liability for corporate acts was held to be irrelevant to the question of personal jurisdiction. In so ruling, the court stated that it was refusing to disregard the corporate form and bypass the protections it offers, citing the longstanding rule that a “corporation exists separately from its shareholders, officers, directors and related corporations….”

The court then analyzed whether it would be appropriate to exercise personal jurisdiction over Silva based on his personal contacts with the state of Indiana. It concluded that Silva as an individual had not purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting activities within Indiana such that he would reasonably anticipate being haled into an Indiana court. Finding that the minimum contacts necessary had not been established, the court held that exercising personal jurisdiction over Silva would offend due process and the “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” and dismissed Silva from the lawsuit.

Practice Tip: Many of the arguments API made – for example, that Silva personally selected the text and design for Bullseye’s labels, that he personally negotiated with suppliers and that he oversaw production – do not support an “alter ego” theory. Activities such as these must necessarily be carried out by the sole shareholder of a small corporation. To find that a small corporation is the alter ego of a sole shareholder merely because that shareholder acts on behalf of the company would violate the basic principles of corporation law.

Paul B. Overhauser, Managing Partner of Overhauser Law Offices, also recently prevailed on the issue of personal jurisdiction in the Seventh Circuit in another lawsuit alleging trademark infringement.

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