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Wyrough & Loser Inc. v. Pelmor Laboratories Inc.

decided: March 2, 1967.


Staley, Chief Judge, and McLaughlin and Forman, Circuit Judges.

Author: Staley

STALEY, Chief Judge.

This is an action to enjoin and recover damages for the misappropriation of trade secrets. After numerous hearings, the district court granted plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. This court granted a stay pending the disposition of this appeal.

Between 1958 and 1965, the plaintiff, Wyrough & Loser, Inc. ("Wyrough & Loser") had employed the defendant, Pelmor Laboratories, Inc. ("Pelmor") to manufacture and distribute to plaintiff's customers a solid-form inert binder containing dispersions of active chemicals used in the production of vulcanized rubber. The district court found that the manufacturing data and names of customers disclosed by plaintiff to the defendant were secret and that a confidential relationship existed between them. In 1965, the plaintiff decided to manufacture and market in its own right the above mentioned materials, which it called "Poly-dispersions," and it ceased doing business with the defendant. In its complaint the plaintiff alleged that the defendant continued to manufacture "Poly-dispersions" after their business relationship had terminated by use of the secret data previously disclosed to it and that Pelmor was marketing these products to plaintiff's customers through the use of secret customer lists.

Finding these allegations to be true and finding that plaintiff would be irreparably harmed if defendant continued to manufacture and distribute rubber chemical dispersions to plaintiff's customers,*fn1 the district court preliminarily enjoined the defendant from (1) soliciting, accepting or filling any order for solid-form inert binders containing active chemical dispersions from any customer of the plaintiff to which the defendant had shipped "Poly-dispersions"; (2) marketing any chemical dispersion in a container of a certain size and color.

The district court held hearings on four days before making the above findings of fact and law. Though the defendant had filed neither motions nor responsive pleadings prior to or during the hearings, it contested the plaintiff's allegations by cross-examining plaintiff's witnesses and by presenting affidavits and defense testimony. The defendant, however, did file a consolidated motion for reconsideration of the district court's announced intention to enter a preliminary injunction and a motion to dismiss on numerous grounds well within the time allotted to answer.*fn2

Among the issues raised by the motion to dismiss was the contention that the district court lacked jurisdiction of the defendant's person. The district court concluded that the defendant had waived any defects of personal jurisdiction and denied the motion.

On this appeal, appellant concentrates its argument on essentially two issues: the lack of personal jurisdiction and the impropriety of a preliminary injunction under the facts of this case. It is clear that our scope of review as to each of these questions is significantly different. It is a matter of law as to whether the district court erred by enjoining a person over whom it had no jurisdiction. However, the correctness of the entry of an injunction pendente lite is one which must be addressed to the discretion of the district court. Bieski v. Eastern Auto. Forwarding Co., 354 F.2d 414 (C.A.3, 1965); National Chemsearch Corp. v. Bogatin, 349 F.2d 363 (C.A.3, 1965); Graham v. Triangle Publications, Inc., 344 F.2d 775 (C.A.3, 1965); Industrial Electronics Corp. v. Cline, 330 F.2d 480 (C.A.3, 1964); 7 Moore's Federal Practice 65.04 [3] at 1623.

Appellant details its contention that the district court lacked jurisdiction of its person into four sub-heads: (1) that it does not have those "minimal contacts" with the state of New Jersey which are required to satisfy due process standards relating to extraterritorial service; (2) that the New Jersey rule providing for such service is invalid; (3) that even if the New Jersey rule is valid, service was not made in accordance with its provisions; and (4) that there was no waiver of personal jurisdiction. It is clear that if we agree with the district court that there was a waiver of personal jurisdiction, the other issues regarding personal jurisdiction become moot. We, therefore, turn to that question first.

The chronology of events relevant to this discussion must necessarily begin with the filing of the complaint. The complaint, containing a request for an injunction pendente lite, was filed on February 14, 1966, and a summons was issued on February 17th and received on February 18th, requiring an answer within thirty-five days. No answer or motions were filed prior to or during the hearings on the motion for a preliminary injunction which were held on February 25th and 28th and March 1st and 2nd. At the conclusion of the hearing on March 2nd, the district court orally stated its findings of fact and conclusions of law and announced its intention to enter a preliminary injunction.*fn3 It was not until March 18th that defendant first raised the question of personal jurisdiction. In its formal findings, the district court considered this argument and held that:

"* * * any alleged defect in regard to * * * service [upon the defendant] and to jurisdiction of the person was waived by defendant by its action in participating in day-to-day hearings on the issue of the preliminary injunction wherein defendant cross-examined plaintiff's witnesses and called to the stand witnesses in its own behalf."

Appellant contests this holding, and, relying upon our opinion in Orange Theatre Corp. v. Rayherstz Amusement Corp., 139 F.2d 871 (C.A.3), cert. denied sub nom. Orange Theatre Corp. v. Brandt, 322 U.S. 740, 64 S. Ct. 1057, 88 L. Ed. 1573 (1944), it urges that since its Rule 12(b) motion was timely filed, there could be no waiver.

We believe that the portion of the Orange Theatre opinion on which appellant relies is not dispositive of the question raised. The oft-cited and frequently quoted part of Judge Maris' opinion is as follows:

"* * * If the defense of lack of jurisdiction of the person is not raised by motion before answer or in the answer itself it is by the express terms of paragraph (h) of Civil Procedure Rule 12 to be treated as waived, not because of the defendant's voluntary appearance but because of his failure to assert the defense within the time prescribed by the rules. We conclude that within the time allowed for serving the answer the defendant may assert this ...

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