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Ackourey v. Sonellas Custom Tailors

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 21, 2013

RICHARD C. ACKOUREY, JR. d/b/a GRAPHIC STYLES/STYLES INTERNATIONAL LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
SONELLAS CUSTOM TAILORS, a/k/a HONG KONG TAILORS (USA), and DILEEP KUMAR DASWANI, a/k/a KEN DASWANI, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

JAN E. DuBOIS, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Richard Ackourey, d/b/a Graphic Styles/Styles International LLC, claims that defendants Sonellas Custom Tailors, a/k/a Hong Kong Tailors (USA), and Dileep Kumar Daswani, a/k/a Ken Daswani, wrongfully used plaintiff's copyrighted images on their websites. Defendants, who are citizens of Oregon, now move to dismiss the case on the ground that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction over defendants.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff, a resident of Pennsylvania, is the owner of two graphic styleguides published in 2005 and 2006, both of which contain hundreds of drawings of men's and women's clothing designs. (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 18-19.) Both styleguides were registered as compilation copyrights and contain copyright statements within them. ( Id . at ¶¶ 18-22.)

Defendant Dileep Kumar Daswani is a tailor of custom clothing. (Defs.' Daswani Declaration ¶ 2.) He is the owner of defendant Sonellas Custom Tailors, which was renamed Daswani Tailors in 2005. ( Id .) Defendants sell custom tailored clothing by scheduled appointments throughout the country. (Compl. ¶ 5-6.) Defendants' websites, which allegedly contain the infringing images, advertise their travel schedule. (Defs.' Daswani Declaration ¶ 5.) On those websites, prospective customers can email defendants to request an appointment but cannot place an order, make a payment, or otherwise engage in business transactions with defendants. ( Id . at ¶ 7.) Daswani avers that he receives an average of three or four inquiries through the contact information on his websites a month and that "almost all of [his] business is generated by referrals from existing customers." (Defs.' Daswani Declaration ¶¶ 5, 7.)

Defendants are based in Oregon. (Defs.' Daswani Declaration ¶ 2.) Daswani avers that he has never travelled to Pennsylvania for tailoring business and has no customer base in Pennsylvania. ( Id . at ¶ 5.) However, plaintiff attached exhibits of screenshots of defendants' websites which show future available stops in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Pl.'s Exhs. B-G.) Daswani concedes that on rare occasions he may have fulfilled an order for a Pennsylvania customer given to him by a cooperating tailor who travelled to Pennsylvania. (Defs.' Daswani Declaration ¶ 6.) In March 2005, Daswani ordered the 2005 styleguide from plaintiff, and the book was shipped from Pennsylvania. ( Id . at ¶ 8; Compl. ¶ 23.)

B. Procedural Background

In May 2012, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendants as part of a larger case against four sets of defendants. In that case, the claims against each defendant were the same: copyright infringement by the wrongful posting of graphic images on various websites. In November 2012, Judge Timothy Savage severed three sets of defendants out of the four and then dismissed the remaining defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Ackourey v. Andre Lani Custom Clothiers, et al. , 2012 WL 5944677 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 28, 2012). The dismissal of the three sets of defendants was without prejudice to the right of plaintiff to file separate cases against each. On December 3, 2012, plaintiff filed three new cases against the severed sets of defendants, including the instant action.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 4(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "authorizes personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants to the extent permissible under the laws of the state where the district court sits." Pennzoil Prods. Co. v. Colelli & Assocs. , 149 F.3d 197, 200 (3d Cir. 1998). Pennsylvania's long-arm statute permits courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants "to the constitutional limits of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id .; 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5322(b).

Once a defendant has filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the burden rests on the plaintiff to prove that jurisdiction exists in the forum state. Imo Indus., Inc. v. Kiekert AG , 155 F.3d 254, 257 (3d Cir. 1998). When considering the motion, the court construes any factual averments and resolves all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd. , 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 1996).

A court may obtain personal jurisdiction over a defendant in one of two ways. First, the court has general jurisdiction if the defendant has engaged in "systematic and continuous" contacts with the forum state and the exercise of jurisdiction is "reasonable." Helicopteros Nacionales De Colombia v. Hall , 466 U.S. 408, 416 (1984). Second, the court has specific jurisdiction if "the defendant purposefully establishe[s] minimum contacts' in the forum." BP Chems. Ltd. v. Formosa ...


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