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L.C. BARON, INC. v. H.G. CASPARI

April 23, 1987

L.C. Baron, Inc. and Liliane C. Baron
v.
H.G. Caspari, Inc.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LUDWIG

 Ludwig, J.

 Defendant H.G. Caspari, Inc., a New York corporation, moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), or to transfer to the Southern District of New York under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). *fn1"

 The original complaint, filed October 28, 1986, claims diversity by alleging that plaintiff L.C. Baron, Inc. is a Pennsylvania corporation and that plaintiff Liliane C. Baron is a resident of Philadelphia. *fn2" On March 27, 1987 after defendant filed the jurisdictional motions, individual plaintiff moved for leave to file an amended complaint nunc pro tunc. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). The original complaint seeks an accounting from defendant, a greeting card publisher, for its use of artistic designs created by individual plaintiff and supplied by her to defendant under an exclusive rights contract.

 The proposed amended complaint, prepared by new counsel, sets forth a copyright infringement action under 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., requesting injunctive relief and damages. It alleges that copyright registrations of plaintiff's designs and paintings were obtained for her after the accounting action was instituted. *fn3" Defendant corporation opposes the filing of the amended complaint. It also asserts that venue in this district is improper because plaintiff, in a deposition taken March 11, 1987, acknowledged that she is a citizen of France and a resident alien of the United States. Plaintiff maintains that jurisdiction and venue are properly laid in that defendant is "doing business" in this district. Furthermore, she contends, the copyright action overcomes defendant's threshhold defenses.

 As to the action as originally filed, I conclude that venue was improper. *fn4" Lacking citizenship, a foreign resident cannot bring a diversity action in his home district even though the general provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1332 were revised to include alienage jurisdiction. Under the cases, the rule remains that an alien must sue where the defendant resides or where the claim arose. See Fleifel v. Vessa, 503 F.Supp 129 (W.D. Va. 1980); Acosta v. Grammer, 402 F. Supp. 736 (E.D.Mo. 1975). See also 1 Moore, Federal Practice P0.142(6) at 1438 (2d ed. 1948).

 Defendant resides in the Southern District of New York where its principal place of business is located. "A corporation may be sued in any judicial district in which it is incorporated or licensed to do business or is doing business, and such judicial district shall be regarded as the residence of such corporation for venue purposes." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c). Defendant is not licensed to do business in Pennsylvania, and plaintiff has not demonstrated that defendant is "doing business" in this district. *fn5"

 Plaintiff's claims did not arise here. Although it may be difficult and "sometimes unnecessary and unrealistic" to find that a claim arose in a single district, little of record supports the complaint's conclusory allegation that the cause of action arose here. Checki v. Webb, 785 F.2d 534, 537 (5th Cir. 1986). See Lamont v. Haig, 192 U.S. App. D.C. 8, 590 F.2d 1124 (D.C. Cir. 1978) ("substantial portion of acts or omissions"); Rosenfeld v. S.F.C. Corporation, 702 F.2d 282 (1st Cir. 1983) ("place of injury" test). The parties' alleged contract appears to have been entered into and largely performed in New York city.

 Accordingly, venue does not lie in this district.

 If the amended complaint were allowed, I believe venue would be a question of first impression. The special venue provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1400(a) permits civil actions "relating to copyrights to be instituted in the district in which defendant or his agent resides or may be found." It does not refer to the status of plaintiff. The term "found" has been equated with "minimum contacts" sufficient under state law to enable service of process and provide in personam jurisdiction. Thomas Jackson Publishing, Inc. v. Buckner, 625 F. Supp. 1044 (D.Neb. 1985); Testa v. Janssen, 482 F. Supp. 1195 (W.D.Pa. 1980); Donner v. Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc., 480 F. Supp. 1229 (E.D.Pa. 1979). But it is debatable whether or not the alien plaintiff rule in diversity should apply to copyright cases as well. Widespread copyright protection is to be encouraged. 1 Moore, supra, P0.144[8] at 1496. Nevertheless, the history of federal venue laws suggests that the interest of a citizen will receive paramount consideration. *fn6" Without deciding the issue as a matter of venue law, I believe this defendant's citizenship interests can best be reconciled by transferring the action to defendant's residence.

 The defective venue of the original action can be cured by transfer under 28 U.S.C. 1406(a) "to any district or division in which it could have been brought." If venue exists either under the original or the amended complaint, the same result could obtain under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) "for the convenience of parties and witnesses" and "in the interest of justice." Since plaintiff's claims arose in the Southern District of New York, the original and amended complaints could have been filed there.

 Assuming venue exists, I believe a § 1404(a) transfer should be granted. The burden is on defendant as movant to prove the requisite factors. Anderson v. Thompson, 634 F. Supp. 1201 (D.Mont. 1986); Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Savage, 611 F.2d 270 (9th Cir. 1979). Ordinarily, plaintiff's selection of forum should prevail, presupposing plaintiff's interest in the forum by virtue of citizenship and residence. E.g., New Image, Inc. v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 536 F. Supp. 58 (E.D.Pa. 1981); Mowrey v. Johnson & Johnson, 524 F. Supp. 771 (W.D.Pa. 1981). However, an alien has no jurisdictional residence. *fn7" The policy expressed in the alien venue cases favors the citizen's district and outweighs the inconvenience to the alien. See Fleifel v. Vessa, supra; Acosta v. Grammer, supra; note 6, supra.

 In this case, the balance of convenience also leans towards transfer. Defendant lists seven of its officers and employees as witnesses to the dealings between the parties. It predicts that it will call fact witnesses and an expert from the New York city area to testify as to the custom of trade between publishers and artists. Plaintiff expects to call herself and at least five other witnesses, three of whom are from the Philadelphia area and two from New Jersey. *fn8" Three are described as artists who had prior dealings with defendant and a fourth is a spouse of an artist. They are offered to prove "the lack of credibility of Defendant's witnesses." Plaintiff's supplemental memorandum, at 5. This vague proffer makes it difficult to evaluate the importance of these rebuttal witnesses or the admissibility of their testimony.

 The relevant documents and records in this case are located in New York. Kuenz v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, 617 F. Supp. 11 (D.C. Oh. 1985). Most of the witnesses who can be expected to testify as to them work in defendant's office. See Paul v. International Precious Metals Corp., 613 F. Supp. 174 (D.Miss. 1985); Volk Corporation v. Art-Pak Clip Art Service, 432 F. Supp. 1179 (S.D.N.Y. 1977) (copyright infringement action begun in district of attorney's residence transferred to district where principal witnesses and most of evidentiary material were located). The contractual aspects of plaintiff's original claim and the infringing acts claimed in the amended complaint, having occurred in New York, are governed by that state's law. It is appropriate ...


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