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Zaslow v. Coleman

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 5, 2015

VALORI L. ZASLOW, ET AL.
v.
WILLIAM T. COLEMAN, III, ET AL

For VALORI L. ZASLOW, REEVENT, LLC, Plaintiffs: MARY ELIZABETH BOGAN, LEAD ATTORNEY, BOGAN LAW GROUP, PHILADELPHIA, PA; DANIELLE DREW-WOLAS, BOGAN LAW GROUP, LLC, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For WILLIAM T. COLEMAN, III, ALLEGRA SAENS COLEMAN, DESIGNREASONS CORP., EVENTS MALL CORP., JONATHAN O'NEILL BROWNE, DOLORES RITA BROWNE, Defendants: WILLIAM T. COLEMAN, III, LAW OFFICE OF WILLIAM T. COLEMAN III, PENN VALLEY, PA.

MEMORANDUM

R. BARCLAY SURRICK, J.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order. (ECF No. 2.) For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

This case involves a bitter business dispute. Initially, Defendants in this matter sought to make this a federal case by filing a complaint claiming that the dispute implicated copyright infringement. Plaintiff herein, Valori Zaslow, filed a motion to dismiss that complaint asserting that the dispute did not implicate copyright infringement, and that the action did not belong in federal court. The motion was granted. Nevertheless, Zaslow has filed this federal lawsuit. She now claims the dispute implicates infringement under both the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. , and the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq.

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff Valori L. Zaslow entered into an internet-based business venture, ReEvent Enterprises, LLC (" REE" ), with Defendants, Allegra Saens Coleman and Dolores Rita Browne. During the beginning stages of the REE's start-up, the relationship soured, resulting in the above mentioned Coleman and Browne federal lawsuit against Zaslow. See Browne, et al. v. Zaslow, et al., No. 14-4711. Zaslow moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the complaint failed to state a claim for relief under the Copyright Act and the Court lacked jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims. We granted Zaslow's Motion, dismissed the claims for copyright infringement with prejudice, and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims. ( Browne Mem., No. 14-4711, ECF No. 48.)[1]

Relevant to this action, Zaslow owned and operated her own events-related business. (Compl. ¶ 13., ECF No. 1.) Upon entering into the agreement to form REE, she agreed to allow REE to use her existing company name, slogan, products, concepts, and ideas, but would retain independent ownership over them. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 16, 19-20.) During the pendency of the Browne action, Zaslow became aware that Coleman and Browne were in the process of forming their own internet-based company. Coleman and Browne's new company features a website based in the mold of REE and " has utilized distinctive intellectual and real property owned by Ms. Zaslow." ( Id. ¶ 34.) Specifically, Defendants' new website is similar in appearance and function to Zaslow's original company, utilizes distinctive logos and graphics borrowed from REE, and its URL link directs browsers to the REE website. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 35-40.) Defendants have also attempted to preregister the REE website with the U.S. Copyright Office, claiming it to be their own. ( Id. ¶ 43.) The pre-registration application filed by Defendants purports to include Zaslow's own independent slogans and ideas. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 45-47.) Defendants also represent that they intend to pre-register Coleman and Browne's new website with the Copyright Office. ( Id. ¶ 50.)

While the Browne action was pending, the Court made exhaustive efforts in an attempt to reach an amicable settlement. We referred the Browne action to Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski to conduct a settlement conference. Settlement conferences were held before Magistrate Judge Sitarski on December 24, 2014, on March 3, 2015, and April 6, 2015. Despite the best efforts of Magistrate Judge Sitarski, an amicable resolution of this matter was not reached.

B. Procedural Background

Zaslow and her corporate entity, ReEvent, LLC, filed this lawsuit on March 12, 2015. They named as Defendants Coleman, Browne, Jonathan O'Neill Browne (a plaintiff in the Browne action), William T. Coleman, III (plaintiffs' counsel in the Browne action), and corporate entities owned by Coleman and Browne. The factual allegations supporting this action are predominantly the same facts at issue in the Browne action. ( See, e.g., Compl. ¶ ¶ 13-33.) Contemporaneously with the filing of the Complaint, Plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order. (ECF No. 2.) After receiving service of the Complaint, William Coleman entered his appearance on behalf of himself, and as counsel of record for all other Defendants. (ECF No. 10.)

As noted above, in the Browne action, Zaslow argued that the parties' dispute did not implicate federal court jurisdiction, and that the action belonged in state court. We agreed with Zaslow and concluded that the Browne complaint failed to adequately plead a claim for copyright infringement. Plaintiffs now plead claims for copyright and trademark infringement, along with a number of state-law claims. They attempt to invoke jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § § 1331 and 1338. After review of the Plaintiffs' Complaint and the Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, it was apparent that the jurisdictional concerns Zaslow raised in the Browne action may also be present here. Accordingly, we raised the issue sua sponte, see Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U.S. 443, 455, 124 S.Ct. 906, 157 L.Ed.2d 867 (2004); Club Comanche, Inc. v. Gov't of the Virgin Islands, 278 F.3d 250, 255 (3d Cir. 2002), and invited the parties to brief this issue. (ECF No. 11.) Plaintiffs filed a Memorandum of Law on April 15, 2015, arguing that the Complaint sufficiently pleads claims for relief under the Copyright and Lanham Acts, thereby establishing jurisdiction under § § 1331 and 1338. (ECF No. 13.) Defendants filed a Memorandum ...


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