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IHF Ltd. v. Myra Bag

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 13, 2019

IHF LTD., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MYRA BAG, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Dan Aaron Polster United States District Judge

         Before the Court are two motions: Defendant Markwest's Motion to Dismiss, Doc #: 28, and Defendant's Terry Moore & Associates, Inc., Shannon Consultants, Inc., NEST, Inc., Cathy & Co., Cheryl Lynn Associates, LLC, and Peggy Lichty & Associates, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss, Doc #: 33. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED. Moreover, the Court sua sponte dismisses without prejudice the claims against Defendants The Rep Connection and Penny Harrison & Co., Inc. for reasons set forth infra, at 18-19.

         I. FACTS

         Plaintiffs IHF Ltd. (“IHF”) and MONA B, LLC (“Mona B”) are incorporated and headquartered in Ohio. IHF is a handbag company that owns the Mona B trademark and designs and produces goods under the Mona B name. Defendants Khemchand Handicrafts (“KH”) and Myra Bag are incorporated and headquartered in India. IHF alleges it met with the owner of KH, Defendant Khemchand Katri (“Katri”), at a trade fair in India and engaged with KH to mass produce and supply Mona B handbags from April 2013 to July 2016. This relationship involved the exchange of IHF's proprietary information, such as product design files, marketing materials, and other confidential information. IHF alleges that in 2016 the supplier relationship with KH ended and shortly after, in April 2017, Plaintiffs noticed a rebrand of KH under Myra Bag. Specifically, Mona B alleges that KH and Katri copied its' designs to produce substantially similar bags.

         Based on these allegations, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Myra Bag, KH and Katri (together, the “Indian Defendants”) on May 2, 2018, alleging claims for Copyright Infringement, 17 U.S.C. §§101, 106 and 501 et seq., Trademark and/or Trade Dress Infringement, 15 U.S.C. §1114 and the Lanham Act §43(a), False Designation of Origin/ Unfair Competition or Misleading Advertising, 15 U.S.C. §1125(a), Unfair and Deceptive Acts or Practices, O.R.C. §§1345.02 and 4165.02, and Tortious Interference with Business Expectancy. On July 6, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint, adding a claim for Conspiracy to Sell, O.R.C. §§2923.01 and 2913.01, and adding the following nine defendants: Terry Moore and Associates Inc. (“Terry Moore”), with principal place of business in Colorado; Shannon Consultants Inc. (“Shannon Consultants”), with principal place of business in New York; Penny Harrison & Company Inc. (“Penny Harrison”), with principal place of business in Washington; NEST, Inc. (“NEST”), with principal place of business in Colorado; Cathy & Co. (“Cathy”), with principal place of business in Missouri; Markwest Inc. (“Markwest”), with principal place of business in Minnesota; The Rep Connection, with principal place of business in Georgia; Cheryl Lynn Associates, LLC (“CLA”), with principal place of business in Michigan; and Peggy Lichty & Associates Inc. (“Peggy Lichty”), with principal place of business in Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs allege that these Defendants assisted KH and Katri by distributing infringing Myra Bag products or by selling infringing and non-infringing Myra Bag products in Ohio.

         On August 2, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion for extension of time to August I, 2019 to serve the Indian Defendants due to the difficulty and time constraints of serving overseas defendants. Doc ##: 11, 12.

         On September 10, 2018, Defendant Markwest filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Doc #: 28. On September 15, 2018, Defendants Terry Moore, Shannon Consultants, NEST, Cathy, CLA, and Peggy Lichty filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Doc #: 33. On October 23, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiffs' request to conduct three months of discovery limited to the question of personal jurisdiction, Doc #: 31 and Minutes of October 23, 2018, later extended at the parties' joint request to March 23, 2019, Doc #: 38 and Marginal Order of December 11, 2018.

         The Court has reviewed the Motions, the response briefs, Doc ##: 30, 49, 50, the reply briefs, Doc ##: 52, 53, and the evidence and is prepared to issue a ruling.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. Theunissen v. Matthews, 935 F.2d 1454, 1458 (6th Cir. 1991). The plaintiff must “set forth specific facts showing that the court has jurisdiction.” Id. When the court is resolving the motion on the written submissions alone, “plaintiff must make only a prima facie showing that personal jurisdiction exists.” Air Prod. & Controls, Inc. v. Safetech Int'l, Inc., 503 F.3d 544 (6th Cir. 2007). In reviewing the motion, the court views the pleadings “in a light most favorable to the plaintiff” and does not weigh “the controverting assertions of the party seeking dismissal.” Theunissen, 935 F.2d at 1459.

         Federal courts first apply the law of the forum state when determining whether personal jurisdiction exists. Mid-West Materials, Inc. v. Tougher Indus., Inc., 484 F.Supp.2d 726, 729 (N.D. Ohio 2007) (citing Youn v. Track, Inc., 324 F.3d 409, 417 (6th Cir. 2003), in turn citing Neogen Corp. v. Neo Gen Screening, Inc., 282 F.3d 883, 887-88 (6th Cir. 2002)). If personal jurisdiction exists under the forum state's long-arm statute, the Court must then determine whether personal jurisdiction comports with the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Id. at 730; Conn v. Zakharov, 667 F.3d 705, 712 (6th Cir. 2012) (holding that Ohio's Long-Arm statute is not coterminous with the Due Process Clause). The parties dispute whether personal jurisdiction exists pursuant to both Ohio's Long-Arm statute and Due Process.

         A. The Ohio Long-Arm Statute, O.R.C. § 2307.382

          The Ohio Supreme Court has held that Ohio's Long-Arm statute does not reach the limits of Due Process; therefore, the court must analyze “whether personal jurisdiction is proper under Ohio's Long-Arm stature prior to considering whether personal jurisdiction may be exercised consistent with constitutional due process.” McMunigal v. Bloch, No. 09 CV 01674, 2010 WL 2106186, at *3 (N.D. Ohio May 25, 2010). For a court to have jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, the defendant must meet at least one of the criteria provided in the Ohio Long-Arm statute. Kroger Co. v. Malease Foods Corp., 437 F.3d 506, 510 (6th Cir. 2006). Plaintiffs allege that jurisdiction is proper under Ohio's Long-Arm Statute, which provides in pertinent part:

(A) 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 person's:
(1) Transacting any business in this state;
(2) Contracting to supply services or goods in this state;
(3) Causing tortious injury by an act or omission in this state;
(4) Causing tortious injury in this state by an act or omission outside this state if he regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods ...

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