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Future World Electronics, LLC v. Results HQ, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 29, 2018

FUTURE WORLD ELECTRONICS, LLC
v.
RESULTS HQ, LLC ET AL.

         SECTION “R” (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SARAH S. VANCE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendants move to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.[1] For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Results HQ, LLC and plaintiff Future World Electronics, LLC are both in the automotive direct mail industry.[2] Plaintiff designs, brands, and licenses advertising templates for use in direct mail campaigns.[3]Each template has its own distinctive theme, such as Payment Swap, Payment Challenge, New Year's Clearing House, and Massive Liquidation.[4] Plaintiff licenses its templates to Your Preferred Printer, LLC (YPP), which is based in Louisiana.[5]

         Results HQ, which is based in Texas, allegedly developed a business relationship with YPP.[6] In connection with this relationship, defendants Bob Shows and Blaine Harris (who are Results HQ's cofounders and Texas residents) allegedly visited YPP's facility in Louisiana four to six times over the course of several years.[7] Plaintiff further alleges that through this business relationship, Results HQ obtained digital copies of plaintiff's templates by accessing a computer server located in Louisiana.[8] At some point, Results HQ allegedly terminated its business relationship with YPP.[9]According to plaintiff, Results HQ then produced, printed, and distributed direct mail advertisements substantially similar to plaintiff's works.[10]

         Plaintiff sued defendants on December 29, 2017, for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and trademark dilution. Defendants now move to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.[11]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Personal jurisdiction is “an essential element of the jurisdiction of a district court, without which the court is powerless to proceed to an adjudication.” Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 584 (1999) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A district court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant if “(1) the long-arm statute of the forum state creates personal jurisdiction over the defendant; and (2) the exercise of personal jurisdiction is consistent with the due process guarantees of the United States Constitution.” Revell v. Lidov, 317 F.3d 467, 469 (5th Cir. 2002). Because Louisiana's long-arm statute, La. R.S. § 13:3201, extends jurisdiction to the limits of due process, the Court need only consider whether the exercise of jurisdiction in this case satisfies federal due process requirements. Dickson Mar. Inc. v. Panalpina, Inc., 179 F.3d 331, 336 (5th Cir. 1999).

         Personal jurisdiction may be either general or specific. Seiferth v. Helicopteros Atuneros, Inc., 472 F.3d 266, 271 (5th Cir. 2006). General jurisdiction over a foreign defendant exists if the defendant's “affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). The Fifth Circuit has articulated a three-step inquiry to determine whether specific jurisdiction exists. Seiferth, 472 F.3d at 271. First, the plaintiff must show that “the defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state, i.e., . . . it purposely directed its activities toward the forum state or purposefully availed itself of the privileges of conducting activities there.” Id. Second, the plaintiff must show that his “cause of action arises out of or results from the defendant's forum-related contacts.” Id. If the plaintiff makes these showings, “the burden shifts to the defendant to defeat jurisdiction by showing that its exercise would be unfair or unreasonable.” Id.

         When the district court rules on a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction without an evidentiary hearing, the “uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be taken as true, and conflicts between the facts contained in the parties' affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor.” Johnston v. Multidata Sys. Int'l Corp., 523 F.3d 602, 609 (5th Cir. 2008). But the district court is not required “to credit conclusory allegations, even if uncontroverted.” Panda Brandywine Corp. v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 253 F.3d 865, 869 (5th Cir. 2001).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff asserts that defendants are subject to specific personal jurisdiction in Louisiana. According to plaintiff, Results HQ “used its business relationships in Louisiana (including, without limitation, travelling to Louisiana on multiple occasion) to access computers in Louisiana, thereby enabling [Results HQ's] copyright and trademark infringement.”[12] Access is one element of plaintiff's copyright infringement claim, though it is irrelevant to plaintiff's trademark infringement and trademark dilution claims. To establish copyright infringement, a plaintiff must show “factual copying.” Guzman v. Hacienda Records & Recording Studio, Inc., 808 F.3d 1031, 1037 (5th Cir. 2015). “[F]actual copying may be inferred from (1) proof that the defendant had access to the copyrighted work prior to creation of the infringing work and (2) probative similarity.” Id. (quoting Positive Black Talk Inc. v. Cash Money Records Inc., 394 F.3d 357, 368 (5th Cir. 2004)). Access means that the defendant “had ‘a reasonably opportunity to view'” the copyrighted work. Id. (quoting Armour v. Knowles, 512 F.3d 147, 152-53 (5th Cir. 2007)).

         “In order for a court to exercise specific jurisdiction over a claim, there must be an ‘affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy, principally, [an] activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State.'” Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1781 (2017) (alteration in original) (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011)). “A single purposeful contact may confer jurisdiction.” Luv n' care, Ltd. v. Insta-Mix, Inc., 438 F.3d 465, 470 n.3 (5th Cir. 2006); see also Wien Air Alaska, Inc. v. Brandt, 195 F.3d 208, 211 (5th Cir. 1999). But a defendant's contacts ...


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