Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Team Angry Filmworks Inc. v. Geer

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 23, 2017

Team Angry Filmworks, Inc., a California company, Plaintiff,
v.
Louise A. Geer, as Trustee of the Dille Family Trust, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Joy Flowers Conti Chief United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         California film-production company Team Angry Filmworks, Inc. (“plaintiff”) calls upon the court to declare that Philip Francis Nowlan's 1928 science-fiction novella Armageddon-2419 A.D. (“Armageddon”) and character “Buck Rogers” entered the public domain, pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act (the “DJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a). As trustee of the Dille Family Trust (the “Trust”), defendant Louise A. Geer (“defendant”) filed the instant motion:

• to dismiss the third amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for failure to present a justiciable controversy under the DJA and Article III of the Constitution; or
• in the alternative, to join necessary parties or to dismiss for lack of indispensable parties under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(7) and 19. (ECF No. 75.)

         Having been fully briefed, defendant's motion is ripe for disposition. For the reasons explained in this opinion, the court will: (1) deny defendant's Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for want of Article III standing; and (2) deny defendants motion for joinder of necessary parties or dismissal for lack of indispensable parties under Rules 12(b)(7) and 19, without prejudice.

         II. Background

         The factual background of this case was already laid out extensively in this court's prior opinions considering defendant's motions to dismiss the the first amended complaint and the second amended complaint. SeeTeam Angry Filmworks, Inc. v. Geer, Civ. Action No. 15-1381, 2016 WL 1086370 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 21, 2016) [hereinafter Team Angry Filmworks I]; Team Angry Filmworks, Inc. v. Geer, No. CV 15-1381, 2016 WL 6039068 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 14, 2016) [hereinafter Team Angry Filmworks II]. The court will, therefore, proceed with only a brief summary of the relevant facts.

         This case was initially filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. (ECF No. 1.) The California district court found venue proper in the Western District of Pennsylvania under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1) and transferred the action to this court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1404(a) and 1406(a). (ECF No. 27 at 2.) On January 7, 2016, this court granted defendant's first Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss without prejudice. (ECF No. 53.) On January 29, 2016, plaintiff filed its first amended complaint. (ECF No. 54.) Defendant responded by filing a motion to dismiss or in the alternative for joinder of an indispensable party. (ECF No. 55.) The court granted defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's first amended complaint on the grounds that the complaint failed to allege a justiciable controversy under the Declaratory Judgment Act (“DJA”) and Article III of the United States Constitution. Team Angry Filmworks I, 2016 WL 1086370. Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint, which the court dismissed on the same grounds. Team Angry Filmworks II, 2016 WL 6039068.

         In its opinions in both Team Angry Filmworks I and Team Angry Filmworks II, this court explained in depth the test courts use to determine whether a justiciable controversy exists under the DJA and Article III. In MedImmune, the Supreme Court affirmed the totality-of-the-circumstances approach and held that a controversy is justiciable under Article III and the DJA if it is “‘definite and concrete, touching the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests.'” MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 127 (2007) (quoting Aetna Life Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240-41 (1937)). The “‘question in each case'” after MedImmune is “‘whether the facts alleged, under all the circumstances, show there is a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment.'” Id. (quoting Md. Cas. Co. v. Pac. Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273 (1941) (emphasis added)).

         In Team Angry Filmworks II, this court determined that plaintiff's second amended complaint satisfied the “reality” prong of MedImmune, but that plaintiff still failed on the “immediacy prong.” Team Angry Filmworks II, 2016 WL 6039068, at *10- 11. In particular, this court held that “because the second amended complaint alleges neither when film production could begin nor when the infringing film could be released, the court cannot conclude from the face of the complaint that plaintiff is ‘immediately prepared' to engage in copyright-infringing activity, as required under the DJA and Article III.” Id. at 10. Because plaintiff did not satisfy the immediacy prong this court granted defendant's motion to dismiss without prejudice. Id. at 12.

         On December 12, 2016, plaintiff filed its third amended complaint. (ECF No. 73.) While plaintiff's third amended complaint contains many of the same factual allegations as the earlier complaints, it also included additional concrete assertions with respect to the timing of pre-production and production for plaintiff's proposed film. Plaintiff attached to the third amended complaint “a Letter of Intent with Legendary Pictures confirming its intent to make ‘Armageddon 2419' when this legal situation is cleared up.” (Id.) The letter outlined a clear timeline for developing a screenplay, casting the roles, completing pre-visualization (three months) and commencing filming (within six months). (ECF No. 73-2). This timeline was also stated in the body of the third amended complaint. (ECF No. 73 ¶ 10.)

         On January 9, 2017, defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's third amended complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(7) and a motion for joinder of necessary parties or dismissal for lack of indispensable parties under Rules 12(b)(7) and 19, along with accompanying briefs and exhibits. (ECF Nos. 75, 76, 77.) On January 27, 2017, plaintiff filed a response in opposition to defendant's motion, a brief in opposition, and objections to defendant's exhibits. (ECF Nos. 79, 80, 81.) On March 10, 2017, this court held a hearing to discuss defendant's motion.[1] Having been fully briefed, defendants' motion to dismiss and motion to join necessary parties is ripe for disposition.

         III. Discussion

         A. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         Because this court already outlined the standards for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion and for establishing a case of controversy under the Article III, the DJA, and MedImmune in its previous decisions on this matter, Team Angry Filmworks I, 2016 WL 1086370, Team Angry Filmworks II, 2016 WL 6039068, the court will not repeat those standards here. Instead the court will proceed directly to the outstanding issue: immediacy.

         A dispute “lacks immediacy” where there are no allegations in the complaint with respect to “when, if ever, ” the product will be “used in a manner that could potentially infringe” the intellectual property rights of another. SeeMatthews Int'l Corp. v. Biosafe Eng'g, L.L.C., 695 F.3d 1322, 1328 (Fed. Cir. 2012). In order “to establish a ‘case or controversy' in a declaratory relief action, ‘the plaintiff must have actually produced the accused article or have engaged in preparations for production such that ‘but for a finding that the product infringes or for extraordinary and unforeseen contingencies, the plaintiff would and could begin production immediately.' ” Sobini Films v. Tri-Star Pictures Inc., Civil Action No. 01-06615, 2001 WL 1824039, at *4 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 21, 2001) (quoting Heerema Marine Contractors v Santa Fe Int'l Corp., 582 F.Supp. 445, 448-49 (C.D.Cal. 1984)) (emphasis original).

         Unlike the second amended complaint, which this court dismissed for lack of immediacy, the third amended complaint contains sufficiently specific allegations with respect to the timing of plaintiff's film production, assuming a declaratory judgment is entered in plaintiff's favor. Plaintiff attached to the third amended complaint a letter of intent from the executive vice president of Legendary Pictures outlining a clear and immediate timeline for the production of the allegedly infringing film. Plaintiff asserts, through the letter provided by Legendary Pictures, that the screenplay, casting, and previsualization can all be completed within three months and that the parties can begin “making the film” within six ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.