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International Watchman, Inc. v. 81 January, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio

August 31, 2017

INTERNATIONAL WATCHMAN, INC Plaintiff,
v.
81 JANUARY, INC., ET AL., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER [RESOLVING DOCS. 24, 29]

          JAMES S. GWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this trademark infringement case, Defendants 81 January, Inc. (“81 January”) and William L. “Bill” Shaine file a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction.[1] Plaintiff International Watchman, Inc. (“International Watchman”) opposes the motion.[2]

         For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this trademark infringement case against Defendants in connection with Defendants' sale of watches on eBay.[3] Plaintiff also brings claims for unfair competition under Ohio law, civil conspiracy, and unauthorized practice of law.[4]

         Defendant 81 January is a Massachusetts corporation.[5] Defendant Shaine is the sole officer of 81 January and is a Massachusetts resident.[6] Plaintiff is an Ohio corporation, with its principal place of business in Ohio.[7]

         Defendants move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.[8] Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not shown that Defendants had any relevant contacts in Ohio. Defendant Shaine states that (1) Defendant 81 January is not registered in Ohio;[9] and (2) neither Defendant has a place of business, real or personal property, or any employee or agent in Ohio.[10]

         Plaintiff opposes Defendants' motion.[11] Plaintiff argues that personal jurisdiction exists over Defendants because Defendants sent a cease and desist letter to Plaintiff in Ohio.[12]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction.[13] When the Court does not hold an evidentiary hearing, the Court “must consider the pleadings and affidavits in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.”[14] Plaintiff “need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdiction, ” and the court “does not weigh the [defendant's] controverting assertions.”[15]

         Nonetheless, Plaintiff must still establish with “reasonable particularity” the specific facts that support jurisdiction.[16] When a defendant contests personal jurisdiction, “the plaintiff may not stand on [its] pleadings but must, by affidavit or otherwise, set forth specific facts showing that the court has jurisdiction.”[17]

         In order to subject a defendant to the personal jurisdiction of this Court, the Court must first consider whether the Ohio long-arm statute, O.R.C. § 2307.382, permits the exercise of jurisdiction.[18] The Court must then consider whether the Court's exercise of jurisdiction comports with the limits of constitutional due process.[19]

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff fails to establish personal jurisdiction over Defendants. The Defendants' sending of a single cease and desist letter to Plaintiff in Ohio does not support personal jurisdiction over Defendants.

         A. Ohio's Long-Arm Statute

         The Court first determines whether Ohio's long-arm statute permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Defendants. Plaintiff's sole argument is that Defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction under the long-arm statute because Defendants transacted business in Ohio.

         Under § 2307.382(A)(1) of the Ohio long-arm statute, “[a] court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action arising from the persons . . . [t]ransacting any business in the state.” In the context of the Ohio Revised Code, “transact” means “‘to prosecute negotiations; to carry on business; to have dealings.”[20] Furthermore, the business transaction must create a “substantial connection” with Ohio.[21]

         According to Plaintiffs, Defendants transacted business in Ohio by sending a cease and desist letter to Plaintiff in Ohio.[22] The letter allegedly concerns Plaintiff's claims.[23]

         However, it is unclear how Defendant's single cease and desist letter constitutes “transacting any business” in Ohio. In the letter, Defendant Shaine does not make any monetary demands on Plaintiff, [24] and thus does not seem to prosecute negotiations, carry on a business, or have dealings with Plaintiff. Rather, Defendants' cease and desist letter appears mainly to be a one-sided business solicitation that does not constitute “transacting any business.”[25] Furthermore, the fact that Defendants sent only one such letter fails to establish a “substantial connection” to Ohio.

         Thus, Plaintiff fails to demonstrate that Ohio's long-arm statute permits personal jurisdiction over Defendants.

         B. Due Process

         Even assuming that Defendants' single cease and desist letter is enough to fall within Ohio's long-arm statute, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that exercising personal jurisdiction comports with due process.

         The Sixth Circuit has developed a three-part test for determining whether a case's particular circumstances provide sufficient contacts between a non-resident defendant and the forum state to support exercising personal jurisdiction:[26]

         “First, the defendant must purposefully avail himself of the privilege of acting in the forum state or causing a consequence in the forum state. Second, the cause of action must arise from the defendant's activities there. Finally, the acts of the defendant or consequences caused by the defendant must have a substantial enough connection ...


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