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Marine Concepts, LLC v. Marco Canvas & Upholstry, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

January 28, 2015

MARINE CONCEPTS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
MARCO CANVAS & UPHOLSTRY, LLC, and EDWARD J. SKRZYNSKI, Defendants.

ORDER

NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, Doc. 6. Defendants' motion is granted.

I. Background

This action arises out of a patent dispute between Plaintiff Marine Concepts, LLC ("Marine Concepts") and Defendants Marco Canvas & Upholstry ("Marco Canvas") and Edward J. Skrzynski ("Skrzynski"). Marine Concepts a Missouri limited liability company with a principal place of business in Osage Beach, Missouri. Marco Canvas is a Florida limited liability company with a principal place of business in Marco Island, Florida. Skrzynski is a managing member of Marco Canvas and a citizen of Florida.

Marine Concepts brought this action in the District Court for the Western District of Missouri alleging breach of a non-disclosure agreement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and correction of the investors named on a patent. Marine Concepts makes, distributes, sells, and installs suspended boat covers. It owns two patents titled "Boat Cover" and "Suspended Boat Cover and Suspended Boat Cover System."

In March 2008, Marine Concepts advertised a suspended boat cover system at the 29th Annual Lake of the Ozarks Products and Services Show. In July 2009, Skrzynski sent an inquiry to Marine Concepts asking about the possibility of Marco Canvas becoming a licensed distributor of Marine Concepts' products.[1] He expressed concern that suspended boat covers could not be used in Florida, as boathouses are scarce in Florida. Randy Kent, the owner and president of Marine Concepts, informed Skrzynski that he was working on a new invention that would allow a boat to be protected by a suspended boat cover even if the boat was not stored in a boathouse. In October 2009, Marine Concepts and Marco Canvas executed a Nondisclosure and Confidentiality Agreement ("NDA") for the exchange of confidential information relating to methods of making canvas boat covers. Thereafter, the parties met to discuss the potential new boat cover. They discussed having Skrzynski's patent attorney prepare a patent application for the invention and listing both Kent and Skrzynski as inventors.

In November 2009, Skrzynski filed a provisional patent application allegedly for the invention developed in conjunction with Kent. Kent was not listed as an inventor on the patent application. Marine Concepts contends that this act breached the NDA and misappropriated Marine Concepts' trade secrets.

II. Discussion

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that they lack sufficient minimum contacts with the state of Missouri for the Court to exercise jurisdiction over them.

To survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff has the burden of making a prima facie showing that personal jurisdiction exists. Steinbuch v. Cutler, 518 F.3d 580, 585 (8th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). The Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolves factual conflicts in the plaintiff's favor. Digi-Tel Holdings, Inc. v. Proteq Telecomms. (PTE), Ltd., 89 F.3d 519, 522 (8th Cir. 1996). Even so, a plaintiff must produce some evidence; conclusory allegations are insufficient. Dever v. Hentzen Coatings, Inc., 380 F.3d 1070, 1072-73 (8th Cir. 2004). "The plaintiff's prima facie showing' must be tested, not by the pleadings alone, but by the affidavits and exhibits presented with the motions and in opposition thereto." Id. at 1072-73.

A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a party based on either general or specific jurisdiction. "Specific jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction over causes of action arising from or related to a defendant's actions within the forum state, ' while [g]eneral jurisdiction... refers to the power of a state to adjudicate any cause of action involving a particular defendant, regardless of where the cause of action arose.'" Viasystems, Inc. v. EBM-Papst St. Georgen GmbH & Co., KC, 646 F.3d 589, 593 (8th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).

A. General Jurisdiction

"A court may assert general jurisdiction over foreign corporations only if they have developed continuous and systematic general business contacts'... with the forum state, [so] as to render them essentially at home in the forum state.'" Id. at 595 (citations omitted).

General jurisdiction is more difficult to establish than specific jurisdiction. In Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. C.t 746, 760-761 (2014), the plaintiff urged the court to find that general jurisdiction exists "in every State in which a corporation engages in a substantial, continuous, and systematic course of business.'" The Supreme Court declined so to hold, ...

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