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Inc. v. Yiwu Hua Hao Toys Co., Ltd.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 28, 2019

RUBIE'S COSTUME COMPANY, INC., a New York corporation, Plaintiff,
YIWU HUA HAO TOYS CO., LTD., a Chinese company; TREND NATION, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company; and JOHN DOES 1-100, currently unknown individuals and entities, Defendants.


          Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge.

         The Honorable Richard A. Jones This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively Transfer Venue (Dkt. # 9). Having considered the submissions of the parties, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that oral argument is unnecessary. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction is GRANTED. Dkt. # 9.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following is taken from Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (Dkt. # 17), which is assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion to dismiss. Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007); see also McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988) (“Moreover, when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) the district court is not restricted to the face of the pleadings, but may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction.”).

         Plaintiff Rubie's Costume Company, Inc. (“Plaintiff”) is a New York-based costume company that designs and manufactures costumes including a “highly-recognizable and very popular full-body Inflatable T-Rex Costume.” Dkt. #17 at ¶ 1. The costume was first published on July 31, 2015 and is registered with the United States Copyright Office (VA 2-108-559). Dkt. # 17 at ¶¶ 35-36. The costume is sold through various distribution channels including “online platforms and traditional brick and mortar stores” throughout the United States (and the world). Id. at ¶ 37.

         Defendant Trend Nation, LLC (“Defendant”) is a Nevada-based corporation that, according to Plaintiff, advertises and sells infringing T-Rex costumes that are allegedly manufactured by Yiwu Hua Hao Toys Co., Ltd. (“Yiwu Hua Hao”), also a defendant in this matter. Dkt. # 17 at ¶¶ 3-4. According to Plaintiff, Yiwu Hua Hao manufacturers two versions of the Inflatable T-Rex costume, both of which “copy original graphical and sculptural features” from Plaintiff's costume. Id. at ¶ 43. Yiwu Hua Hao sells these allegedly infringing costumes using an Amazon seller account, Yiwu Hua Hao Toys Co. Ltd. (A28HXIHWFH6GG1). Id. at ¶ 45. Trend Nation also allegedly sells the infringing T-Rex costumes on Amazon using the account, Mindful Design (A1JSZ235HIVP4X). Dkt. # 17 at ¶ 46.

         On October 18, 2018, Rubie's brought suit against Trend Nation and Yiwu Hua Hao Toys, along with several unnamed defendants, under the Federal Copyright Act. Dkt. # 1. Rubie's later amended its complaint, adding thirteen named defendants. Dkt. # 17. Trend Nation now moves to dismiss Rubie's complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Dkt. # 9. Alternatively, Trend Nation requests that the action be transferred to the District of Nevada on forum non conveniens grounds. Id.


         A. Personal Jurisdiction

         In a case like this one, where no federal statute governs personal jurisdiction, the court's jurisdictional analysis starts with the “long-arm” statute of the state in which the court sits. Glencore Grain Rotterdam B.V. v. Shivnath Rai Harnarain Co., 284 F.3d 1114, 1123 (9th Cir. 2002). Washington's long-arm statute (RCW § 4.28.185) extends personal jurisdiction to the broadest reach that the Due Process Clause of the federal Constitution permits. Shute v. Carnival Cruise Lines, 113 Wash.2d 763, 771 (1989). Plaintiff has the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction. Ziegler v. Indian River County, 64 F.3d 470, 473 (9th Cir. 1995). “It is well established that where the district court relies solely on affidavits and discovery materials, the plaintiff need only establish a prima facie case of jurisdiction.” Rano v. Sipa Press, Inc., 987 F.2d 580, 587 n.3 (9th Cir. 1993). In determining whether Plaintiff has met this burden, any “uncontroverted allegations” in Plaintiff's complaint must be taken as true, and “conflicts between the facts contained in the parties' affidavits must be resolved in [Plaintiff's] favor for purposes of deciding whether a prima facie case for personal jurisdiction exists.” AT&T v. Compagnie Bruxelles Lambert, 94 F.3d 586, 588 (9th Cir. 1996), supplemented, 95 F.3d 1156 (9th Cir. 1996) (internal citations omitted).

         There are two types of personal jurisdiction: general and specific. Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat'l Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 2000). A defendant with “substantial” or “continuous and systematic” contacts with the forum state is subject to general jurisdiction, and can be haled into court on any action, even one unrelated to its contacts in the state. Bancroft & Masters, 223 F.3d at 1086. A defendant not subject to general jurisdiction may be subject to specific jurisdiction if the suit against it arises from its contacts with the forum state. Id. Plaintiff does not assert that Defendant is subject to general jurisdiction, so the Court will only consider whether the Defendant is subject to specific jurisdiction.

         The Court applies a three-part test to determine whether the exercise of specific jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant is appropriate: (1) the defendant has either purposefully directed his activities toward the forum or purposely availed himself of the privileges of conducting activities in the forum, (2) the plaintiff's claims arise out of the defendant's forum-related activities, and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable. Axiom Foods, Inc. v. Acerchem Int'l, Inc., 874 F.3d 1064, 1068 (9th Cir. 2017). Plaintiff bears the burden of satisfying the first two prongs. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2004). The burden then shifts to defendant to make a “compelling case” that the exercise of jurisdiction would not be reasonable. Id.

         1. Purposeful Direction

         Purposeful availment and purposeful direction are “two distinct concepts.” Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 802. In the Ninth Circuit, tort cases typically require a purposeful direction analysis, whereas contract cases typically require a purposeful availment analysis. Washington Shoe Co. v. A-Z Sporting Goods, Inc.,704 F.3d 668, 672-73 (9th Cir. 2012). Here, Plaintiff is alleging copyright infringement, so the Court will apply the purposeful direction ...

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